have become more cautious in granting access to individuals and groups wishing to study natural history and to collect specimens for the furtherance of those studies. To ensure that fungus groups and individual field mycologists continue to be welcome there are standards of behaviour that we should always maintain when out on a foray.
Permission to make group visits to sites should always be obtained. Even where managed land is open to the public it is courtesy to notify rangers and wardens of proposed visits. Letters of thanks for group visits should always be sent, with a list of species. If nothing more, this will ensure a welcome for future visits. Good countryside practice should be followed; property should be respected, all gates should be left as found, walls and fences should not be climbed where there is no stile or obvious access point. Locked field gates should be climbed near the hinges – they are not designed to carry heavy loads at the latch end. It is also much safer to climb an old gate where it is strongest, near to the post.
Dogs should be kept under close control, litter should be taken home, noise levels kept low, and fire risks avoided. Repetitive collecting by all participants on a foray should be discouraged, and on no account should edible species be collected from nature reserves, or from private land unless the owner has given permission.
Be aware that some public open spaces are subject to local bye-laws that may prohibit collecting. If in doubt obtain clarification when asking permission for access. Truffle hunters have been criticised in the past, perhaps unfairly. The nature of their searches, sometimes using rakes, may do short term damage to the local environment and the results can look unsightly, though few now engage in this activity in this country. Those who do should gain permission in the same way as others, taking care to explain the scientific nature of their truffle survey. The highly valued edible species found on the Continent are not present in the UK so commercial or social collecting of truffles is not a feature of our society.
One of the first principles of collecting is to leave the environment as close as possible to the state in which it was found. Don’t litter the surroundings with discarded specimens, and if logs have to be rolled over ensure that they are turned back to their former position. Minimum quantities should be collected when investigating wood inhabiting species or collecting bracket fungi (a small wedge taken from the side is often sufficient). These recommendations are not just for the tidy-minded – they help to conserve invertebrates and other forms of life.
Four fungal species are legally protected from collection, even for scientific purposes, by Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which prohibits their ‘intentional picking, uprooting or destruction’. The Act only applies to England, Scotland and Wales, not Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. The species covered are Hericium erinaceum (Bearded Tooth), Buglossoporus pulvinus = Piptoporus quercinus (Oak Polypore), Boletus regius (Royal Bolete) and Battarrea phalloides (Sandy Stiltball). Licences for collection of these species can be obtained by application to the appropriate authority (English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Countryside Council for Wales). Please see Appendix 12 for the implications of the Drugs Act 2005 on field mycology.
Most readers of this text will be familiar with methods of taking spore prints, and of the need to do this as a first step towards identification after sorting the contents of a collecting basket. Don’t be tempted to store specimens in a fridge before setting up spore prints as the chilling can slow down the release of spores and may inhibit spore drop completely.