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Fungi in Epping Forest

​Porcelain Fungi in Epping Forest

​Fungi in Epping Forest

Fungi are some of the most ecologically important, mysterious and fascinating groups of organisms in Epping Forest, and a wide range of fungi appear here in all shapes, sizes and colours.

The Forest has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation partly because of the vast diversity of fungi found here.

Fungi picking is not allowed in Epping Forest. Please help us to protect the Forest by contacting us straight away if you see anyone picking the fungi. Tel 020 8532 1010.


As far back as the late 18th Century, there have been studies of the lichen-forming fungi in Epping Forest. In fact, Epping Forest has one of the longest unbroken histories of fungi recording anywhere in the world. As a result, the Forest also has one of the largest lists of fungi species in the UK.

Even the more common and better-known fungi can surprise and intrigue. People come to see sights like the extraordinary Dog Stinkhorn emerging from its cluster of miniature ‘egg-shells’, and to see the circles of ‘fairy-rings’ which give even adults the urge to jump and make a wish.

And despite over a century of annual forays and hundreds of visits by experts, the list carries on growing astonishingly, with the current number of species now topping 1,600 – and including the oak polypore and the zoned rosette among the rarest of the fungi recorded.

Biodiversity: the importance of Fungi in Woodland

Lists like those offer a simplistic measure of a complex, hidden biodiversity that is the foundation for the health of the Forest. Fungi are its life-blood. They are its supply pipelines, waste disposal and food distributors.

As well as providing trees with nutrients and energy supplies, Fungi, by rotting dead wood, also provide food for a huge range of invertebrates. It has been calculated that 50% of the rare flies and beetles in Epping Forest rely on dead wood at some stage in their life cycle. Most of them, therefore, rely on Fungi too.

However, more surprisingly, the fruiting bodies of fungi are home to hundreds of species of insects. This is perhaps not hard to imagine in the large bracket fungi that grow on the sides of trees and last for months or years; but it seems impossible on mushrooms that last just a few days. Yet in Britain there are over 500 species of gnats that breed in just such fungi and over 240 of them are to be found in Epping Forest. There is only one other place in the UK where more of these insects have been found.

Conservation of Fungi vs. Illegal Foraging

Some fungi, like the lovely Chanterelle and the Horn of Plenty, seem to be in natural decline here. In general, those fungi that have special links with tree roots - like the myriad of colour-caps that help to sustain our ancient Beech trees - are in lower numbers these days.

Pollution is likely one of the causes for this decline, with evidence to suggest that London’s nitrogen oxide pollution (car exhausts and emissions from power stations) may be acidifying and fertilizing the soil, damaging the links between these special fungi and the tree roots

This is a decline that is being rapidly accelerated by the growing issue of foraging illegally conducted in the Forest. The Forest is dependent on its fungi, and the long term damage caused by pickers is immeasurable. 

22 March 2012
Last Modified:
30 August 2019