Dozens of people have been fined more than £2,000 in total for illegally picking large amounts of wild mushrooms.

The City of London Corporation (CLC) said it had handed out £80 fixed penalty notices to 27 people who had been caught smuggling the fungi out of Epping Forest over the last 12 months.

Some were caught carrying more than 5kg of mushrooms and a bag weighing 49kg was confiscated from the local beauty spot.

Epping Forest Keepers say they also often issue verbal warnings to pickers.

Fungi are protected under Epping Forest bylaws and their large-scale removal damages its ecology, the CLC said.

The ancient woodland is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation and many of its wild mushroom species are of national importance.

The CLC said certain types of fungi were sold to restaurants and markets but that doing so removed food sources for rare insect species and other animals such as deer.

The fungi are important to the health of the site’s trees, some of which are up to 1,000 years old, as particular species protect their roots, and provide them with water and vital minerals.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, Graeme Doshi-Smith, said: “Fungi play an incredibly important role in the delicate balance of biodiversity which makes Epping Forest special.

“Stripping the ancient woodland of mushrooms damages its wildlife and threatens rare species.

“And many varieties are dangerous for human consumption and can indeed be fatal.

“We welcome the millions of people who come to enjoy this protected site.

“But I urge visitors to leave the fungi how they find them – untouched.”