Are woodland mushrooms and moss worth harvesting?
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) include edible and medicinal plants, mushrooms, moss and lichen, bark, foliage and cones, plus wild and managed game. Forest Research worked with NTFP research specialists and gatherers to describe and estimate the social, cultural and economic value of these products from Scottish woods and forests.
Key findings and recommendations
- Joy and passion – collecting wild mushrooms and other forest materials is a popular activity enjoyed by a diverse community
- Highly personal – gatherers suggest that harvesting is deeply personal, sometimes fundamental to a person’s sense of identity
- 200 products – wild harvesters collect around 200 products, including 173 vascular and fungal species
- Edible plants – most commonly collected, followed by craft materials (especially for basket making and weaving); harvesting medicinal plants is rare
- Gatherers collect an average of 15 products per trip
- Recreation – most people do not gather for their livelihood, but use what they harvest at home or as gifts for friends and family
- Income – all income from NTFP is modest, in the informal cash economy, and rarely for profit
- Information on how and where to collect is typically acquired from friends and family, although gatherers also consult books and guides
- Benefits – gatherers typically rate an intimate relationship with the countryside as the most significant benefit over prized flavours, special materials and occasional small amounts of cash
- Habitat diversity – NTFPs come from a range of different habitats, so forest management should favour landscape diversity, although gatherers particularly appreciate mixed species woodlands
- Plant hazel – hazel and other woody shrubs at woodland edges is good for mushrooms and plant diversity
- Communication – forest managers should establish good relations with gatherers to find out other creative NFTP opportunities
- Legal status – gathering in Forestry Commission sites is prohibited, but this should be reviewed as part of wider efforts to include NTFPs into forest policy and management
- Review – the role of NTFPs should be considered in research, policy and management as developments of this field could have positive and negative impacts for gatherers
Funders and partners
- The Scottish Forestry Trust
- Scottish Enterprise
- Forestry Commission
- Forest Research
The research was conducted by Dr Marla R. Emery, a visiting research from the US Forest Service and Alison Dyke, an independent NTFP consultant.
- Wild harvests from Scottish woodlands: Social, cultural and economic values of contemporary non-timber forest products (PDF-498K).