The use of tools for the purpose of finding and or collecting mushrooms is prohibited, the forestry department announced on Wednesday, the start of mushroom-picking season.

The department said that many mushroom collectors use tools, mainly rakes, to remove the foliage that covers the mushrooms.

The practice is expressly prohibited by forestry law and in case of conviction, carries a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine of up to €5,000 or both.

“The identification of mushrooms must be done after careful observation by collectors who are able to recognise edible species from poisonous ones,” the forestry department said.

When collecting, it is recommended to clear the foliage above the mushroom and then remove it with careful movements by hand. Alternatively, the mushroom can be cut with a knife just above the ground. Collectors should then reposition the foliage that was moved.

The collection, it added, “must be done with care and respect for nature”.

“It is very important to collect only the mature mushrooms that have released a large number of spores, thus ensuring their reproduction in the following years,” it added.

The department appealed to the public to practice proper tracking and collection practices and report any violations to the nearest forest station.

“The sweeping removal of foliage causes damage to the forest ecosystem since it kills the small mushrooms that are about to sprout, as well as microorganisms and plants in the area, while at the same time, it degrades the forest aesthetically,” the statement concluded.