Friday, July 31, 2015

City of Toronto advises that foraging in parks carries risk for humans and negatively affects ecosystems

City of Toronto Media Relations has issued the following:

News Release:  July 31, 2015

City of Toronto advises that foraging in parks carries risk for humans and negatively affects ecosystems

Members of the public are asked to leave what they find growing in Toronto's public parks and natural spaces because of safety risks for humans and the impact that removal can have on the natural environment. The risk to humans is that some plants and mushrooms can be similar in appearance to those that are safe, but when eaten can lead to severe illness and even death.

Foraging – the injury and removal of plants – in parks, forests and ravines is prohibited by the Toronto Parks Bylaw, Chapter 608.

A number of Toronto's ravines have been designated as Environmentally Significant Areas because they contain rare species, habitats of unusually high diversity, rare landforms or provide an important ecological function. Many plants that foragers collect grow in these sensitive habitats. Trampling soft soils and other plants negatively affects ecosystems. Informal trails created by foragers can cause compaction, erosion and significant damage to the forest floor.

Harvesting plants removes seed sources that allow the plants to spread, and decreases biodiversity and food sources for wildlife. Disturbing plants and soils can also introduce or disperse invasive species into new areas. These invasive plants can quickly out-compete native species, reducing biodiversity and the quality of habitat for insects and wildlife.

Foraging can also deplete natural resources quickly. It would only take a small number of foragers to remove the majority of plant resources growing in the city.

Anyone with health concerns related to eating mushrooms or other toxic plants should call the Ontario Poison Centre. In Toronto, call 416-813-5900. Outside Toronto, call 1-800-268-9017.

More information about the bylaw is available at

More information about urban forests and the issues with foraging is available at

More information about alternatives to foraging, such as participating in an allotment plot or a community garden, is available at

More information about volunteering for natural area management and controlling invasive species with Urban Forestry's Community Stewardship Program is available at

This news release is also available on the City's website:

Toronto is Canada's largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world's most livable cities. Toronto is proud to be the Host City for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit, call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or follow us @TorontoComms.

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Media contacts:
Parks, Forestry and Recreation media line, 416-560-8726, For interviews with Dr. Margaret Thompson, Medical Director, Ontario Poison Centre: Suzanne Gold, 416-813-7654, ext. 202059,


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