Yellow Morel mushroom by FWS

Looking for nuts, berries, and mushrooms (fungi) on the Refuge can provide a fun way to enjoy nearby nature. Photo: Yellow Morel mushroom, USFWS

Visitors are allowed to forage for nuts, berries, and mushrooms (fungi) on the Refuge for personal use only.  You are limited to collection of 1 gallon per person per day, and you may not sell what you forage.  Please review the stipulations below to help plan for your visit. 

In addition to finding nuts, berries, and mushrooms, individuals occasionally request permission to hand harvest native prairie plant seed from Refuge lands.  Many do this in order to establish small plots of native plants on their own private property. These plots can be for native plant landscaping purposes, or to develop their own native habitat for wildlife at home.

 You are allowed to forage for nuts, berries, fungi, and seeds with the following stipulations: 
  • Use of motorized vehicles or motorized watercraft is prohibited, except by permit, or within designated parking areas 
  • Harvest or removal of watercress is prohibited 
  • Digging of plants or their roots is prohibited 
  • Plant food products harvested may not be sold 
  • Cutting or damage to trees is prohibited 
  • No state or federally threatened, endangered, or species of special concern may be harvested or cut 
  • No more than 20 plants per species can be cut and removed for decorative purposes 
  • Cutting of noxious weeds is prohibited, in order to prevent spread 
  • Grass and forb (wildflowers) seed harvest is limited to 10 pounds for establishment of prairie, and not for resale 

A Word of Caution 

Gathering wild edibles can be very satisfying and delicious work. Just remember, be sure of what you are picking. There are several varieties of mushrooms and berries that are toxic and can kill or make you very ill. If you are unfamiliar with a plant always reference a trusted resource.  

Books are great resources and are helpful when making an identification. Reference more than one book before you eat a new berry or mushroom and pay attention to the entire plant. If you are identifying a berry remember to look at the leaves, stems, fruit and overall structure of the plant. If you are identifying a mushroom look at the top, bottom, stem, and how the two connect. Check the surrounding area and if it is a tree mushroom what type of tree is it growing on? All of these things can be clues to identifying the mushroom.  

Also look for other mushrooms that may look similar in your field guide to be certain that it couldn’t be anything else. If you are not 100% sure don’t eat it and don’t feed it to anyone else. The first time you eat any wild edible eat only a small amount to see how it will affect you. Remember that some plants, like the ground cherry, are edible only at a certain stage of growth or with special preparation. If you eat them at the wrong time they are toxic. Be safe and enjoy your wild harvest. 


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