Poisonous Mushrooms – They are for Real!
Please…don’t let poisonous mushrooms ruin the fun! Mushroom foraging, as with foraging for other wild foods, has become a more common and fun activity for mycophiles. What could be better than getting among nature’s best life.
There are many types of mushrooms–with some even providing medicinal properties– that are delicious and safe to eat, but there are others that are poisonous.
We cannot emphasize this enough…you have to know what you’re doing. It may not be as easy to deal with a poisonous mushroom as a belly ache from, say, crabapple…so, it is vitally important to know what to stay away from. Please don’t underestimate their potential to do damage!
I am willing to be the “buzzkill” on the topic (and the “worrywart”) if it will enhance your foraging experience and save a life.
Here is a list of the most commonly found poisonous mushrooms you should avoid:
Death Cap mushrooms have a round silver cap and a pure white stem. They are close to the ground and grow under bushes and shrubs, and can thrive in urban areas.
Amatoxins, the toxin found in Death Cap mushrooms, is deadly enough that only a few bites will kill you.
Its deception is that it doesn’t kill you right away. Usually, symptoms like abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, will present themselves a day or two after ingestion. The damage has started, however, with amatoxins attacking your liver and kidney.
In Vancouver B.C., there was an outbreak of Death Cap mushrooms that ,unfortunately, led to the death of a child.
Destroying Angel mushrooms are related to Death Caps and contain amatoxins too. They’re white with a bulbous cap and thick stem and closely resemble Puffball mushrooms. They look so similar to the common mushroom as well.
They differ from Puffballs because the stem and gills are white, and the gills are not attached to the stem. At the base of the stem, they also have a broken membrane.
They can be found near woodland areas or near trees and shrubs in grassy lawns or meadows.
After ingestion, symptoms usually occur around five hours later, with irreversible damage to the victim’s liver and kidneys. Most mushroom deaths are due to Destroying Angel mushrooms.
Based on the name, It’s no surprise that Jack O’Lantern mushrooms are orange in color. They look similar to Chanterelles, but grow in clusters and have gills, unlike the latter.
If you slice open a Jack O’Lantern, they are also orange on the inside. Chanterelles ,on the other hand, are paler in color.
It contains the toxin Illudin S and the Jack O’Lantern mushrooms are frequently found on dead trees and stumps in urban areas. It’s also believed that the gills of the Jack O’Lantern glow in the dark.
If you accidentally eat a Jack O’Lantern, you’ll experience cramping diarrhea and vomiting, but it’s rare to die from eating them.
Morels are an easy mushroom to love. This delicacy is tender and earthy flavored. They are found near dead trees in colder climates in the springtime. The False Morel mushrooms are a similar and found in the same environment.
If you ingest a False Morel, your symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting; in severe cases, you’ll experience death.
Not all False Morel mushrooms are fatal because some mushrooms have a higher level of the toxin gyromitrin, and some people are more sensitive to it.
However, some people are not affected by the toxin and even forage and cook them like non-poisonous Morels.
Please take care…
If you decide to mushroom forage, please go with an expert and consult a book like, The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms by Turner and Aderkas. It’s an easy to use guidebook that includes a picture, a description of the plant and the toxin, and where they commonly occur. Most importantly, only eat mushrooms you are confident are edible. If in doubt, avoid eating it because it can mean the difference between life or death.