Posts Tagged ‘Dangerous Plants’

A few posts ago I wrote about making mushroom spore prints. I didn’t say much about the dangers of eating wild mushrooms because I assumed that people knew enough to not eat wild mushrooms. Apparently I was wrong, because a statement released recently by the State Department of Health and Human Services says that the number of emergency room visits due to mushroom poisoning has tripled since 2009. And it’s not just happening here in New Hampshire; officials in Washington, D.C., Michigan, and even Norway are seeing the same thing.

The mushrooms in the photo at left, known as Death Caps (Amanita phalloides), are responsible for most of the mushroom poisoning deaths in the world because they resemble many edible species.  They aren’t rare or even hard to find; they grow in my yard every year.  Death caps contain a virulent toxin called amantin.

The following is by an expert in mushroom identification: “Someone who eats a Death Cap will not feel any symptoms for 10 to 14 hours. Then the person will experience vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. After awhile, these symptoms will go away and the person will feel fine. They are not fine. Three or four days after eating the mushroom, the person will have kidney or liver failure. He/she will die five to ten days after eating the Death Cap.”  Some who ate them and survived said they were quite tasty, so the story that all poisonous mushrooms taste bad is a myth.

One ounce of this mushroom is enough to kill an adult and cooking it doesn’t make it less lethal. Neither does drying or freezing. There is no “antidote” for the toxin, but a handful of people have survived after eating it. If you accidentally eat one of these and don’t bring a sample with you to the E.R. they have no way of knowing exactly what you have eaten, and the outlook won’t be promising.

Some believe they are safe if they eat only wild Morels, Chanterelles or Porcini, but there is a mushroom called the false morel that is so toxic that even preparing it can be dangerous. The false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) mimics chanterelles and the Devil’s Bolete (Boletus satanas) has been mistaken for Porcini.

The only way to be 100% safe around wild mushrooms is to NEVER eat one and always wash your hands after touching them. I’ve been hunting wild mushrooms for many years and I wouldn’t dare eat one unless an expert was with me. If you are not an expert in mushroom identification and choose to eat wild mushrooms I would ask you: Is a plate full of mushrooms worth the risk of a liver transplant or death?

Read an account of “mild” poisoning written by a doctor who accidentally ate toxic mushrooms here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/magazine/26lives-t.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1317203901-UK92q7xW6IFyH8XAzvqxKw

Photo of Death Cap copyright 2011 by Archenzo of Italy

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