By Annette Chrysostomou
The uncontrolled collection of mushrooms is a big threat to Cypriot fauna and is strictly forbidden, the Green Party and the forestry department warned on Thursday.
Recently, the Green Party received complaints that wild mushroom pickers removed the layer of pine needles and scraped the roots of pine trees with rakes and other tools in the Ayios Dimitrios, Lemythou, and Kaminaria areas.
Collectors routinely do this to find mushrooms.
“The use of rakes is strictly prohibited and there are heavy fines for those who destroy the flora using such tools,” the Green Party said in a statement. “Their use destroys the ability of the fungi to reproduce. Pickers should be especially careful and report those who break the law.”
Efforts have been made by the Green Party and the mycological association to control the unlawful practice of raking and relevant legislation is pending.
Despite these efforts the future for mushrooms in Cyprus looked bleak, the statement said.
The forestry department also warned on Thursday that the practice is strictly forbidden under the Forestry Act.
Mushroom picking should only be carried out by individuals after careful observation and by those who can distinguish between edible and poisonous varieties. One of Cyprus’ most in-demand edible mushrooms, the wild red, is almost identical to a poisonous one and its ingestion can be lethal.
During collection, foliage should be removed by hand only where the mushroom grows, and the foliage should be replaced afterwards. Collectors must always use a small knife, and not pull out the entire mushroom.
“The collection should be done with caution and respect for nature and the mushroom itself,” the department stated. “It is very important to collect only the ripe mushrooms, which have released a large number of spores, thus ensuring reproduction of the fungi in subsequent years.”
The forestry department has scheduled patrols for the implementation of the law and those who violate the law will be charged.
At the same time, they called on the public to report such violations to the nearest forestry station.
“Clearing away foliage severely damages the forest ecosystem since smaller mushrooms are destroyed along with micro-organisms and plants in the area,” the forestry department said, adding that it was also “aesthetically unappealing”.
The banned practice carries a fine of up to €5,000, a year in jail, or both.