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The Most Common Poisonous Mushrooms to Watch Out For

Common Poisonous Mushrooms Death Cap

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Mushroom hunting is fun.  Mushrooms are appetizing and nutritious, and some varieties even have medicinal qualities.  But unfortunately, there are some common poisonous mushrooms that you need to be aware of. With mushrooms, all that glitters is not gold, as some that look appetizing could lead to death. You must be careful while rummaging for mushrooms, as misidentification could cost your life.

Here is a list of some common poisonous mushrooms

This is by no means a complete list, and there are likely other poisonous mushroom varieties in your area.  Never eat a mushroom that you find unless it has been positively identified as safe by an expert.

Death Cap Mushroom (Amanita Arocheae and Aminita Phalloides)

The name says it all: the Death Cap is among the deadliest species of common poisonous mushrooms. This mushroom is supposedly delicious, but a few bites are enough to kill you.  Death Caps contain amatoxins, a small quantity of which can lead to system collapse and death within days.  Death Caps are mostly found beneath shrubs and bushes. They have white stems crowned with caps that are usually greenish or silver.  Cap color can vary, however, so is not a reliable indicator.

Poisonous Death Cap Mushrooms

Death Cap mushrooms are especially lethal because they appear similar to edible Caeser and Straw mushrooms and, when tasted, lack the usual bitter taste associated with most poisonous mushrooms.

They also thrive in urban areas where people are likely to encounter them.

There was an outbreak of poisonings in Vancouver, Canada, several years ago in which a three-year-old boy died after eating death caps that he had found growing by a sidewalk.

Protect Your Dog

Some might not know that this type of yard mushroom has poisoned many dogs.  Many of the same mushrooms poisonous to people are also poisonous to animals.

Be sure to keep your pets away from mushrooms, and if you see symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Destroying Angel Mushrooms

Destroying Angel mushrooms are dangerous as their name sounds. This white, bulbous-capped, and thick-stemmed mushroom species grow near the edges of woodlands, shrubs, and trees. Destroying Angels look a lot like button mushrooms and edible puffball mushrooms, and mistakes in identification have caused numerous deaths.

Poisonous Destroying Angel Mushrooms

The Destroying Angel mushroom is responsible for most deaths caused by mushroom poisoning. Symptoms occur about five hours after consuming them. Once symptoms occur, you must seek treatment quickly, as irreversible kidney and liver damage will soon occur if it hasn’t already.

Read our article about destroying angels for more details about these dangerous mushrooms.

False Morels (Clitocybe Rivulosa)

Most mushroom lovers enjoy the tenderness and woodsy flavor of Morel mushrooms. Found in the Springtime in cold climates, the family of False Morels can easily be mistaken for the real morels by untrained eyes.   Like real Morels, False Morels grow near dead trees, and their appearance is very similar.

False Morel

Their toxicity depends mainly on the concentration of the toxins and the sensitivity of the person who eats them. If someone with high sensitivity eats a false morel, symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting, could occur. Other people eat the same mushrooms with no problems.

Read our article about how to tell the difference between morels and false morels for more details on this subject.

And check out our article about how to forage for morels to learn more about how to find delicious morel mushrooms.

Smith’s Amanita (Amanita Smithiana)

Found largely in North America’s Pacific Northwest region, Smith’s Amanita usually grows in wooded areas and matures in the late Summer.  It is a large mushroom and looks like a whitish portabello.  Some foragers in the Pacific Northwest have been poisoned by this mushroom, so foragers should exercise caution.

Autumn Skullcap (Galerina Marginata)

Autumn skullcaps grow throughout the northern hemisphere. They have brown to yellow-brown caps and are easily confused with other edible brown mushrooms.

Extremely poisonous, Autumn Skullcaps usually grow on rotting wood. Ingesting a small amount will cause severe liver damage and can be deadly if medical attention isn’t received quickly.

Autumn Skull Cap Mushrooms

Brown Roll-Rim (Paxillus Involutus)

Brown Roll-Rim mushrooms grow in wooded areas throughout North America.  They are generally brown and grow between two and three inches high.

This mushroom was always considered poisonous when eaten raw, but in the past was considered safe to eat when cooked.

However, in recent years, it has been found to cause autoimmune hemolysis, which can be fatal.  This has happened to people who had eaten these mushrooms for years without problems.

Angel Wings (Pleurocybella Porrigens)

These mushrooms grow on dead tree trunks throughout the northern hemisphere.  Like the Brown Roll Rim mushrooms, they were once thought to be edible, but in recent years they have caused kidney failure in several people over 50 with pre-existing kidney issues.

Jack O’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus Illudens)

This common mushroom derives its name from its orange color.  It resembles the delicious chanterelle, but it has gills that are said to glow in the dark. This species grows in clusters, unlike the chanterelle.

Jack o’ lantern is not high on the list of poisonous mushrooms, but it is still dangerous. It grows at the bases of hardwood trees, decaying stumps, or buried roots and contains illudin toxins.

False Champignon (Clitocybe Rivulosa)

Also known as “Fool’s Funnel,” this small white mushroom grows in grassy areas across Europe and North America.  They grow on lawns, so children often encounter these poisonous mushrooms.

Symptoms of poisoning from the False Champignon include greatly increased salivation and sweating about 15- 30 minutes after eating, followed by severe nausea and diarrhea.  These mushrooms aren’t usually fatal, but death can occur, so if you believe your child may have eaten one of these mushrooms, seek immediate medical attention.

On a Final Note

As you can see, many poisonous mushrooms are quite common, and the above is not a complete list.

As a lover of mushrooms, your life could depend on your knowledge of the diverse species of mushrooms and your ability to differentiate poisonous mushrooms from edible ones. If you have even the slightest doubt, then for your safety, steer clear of wild mushrooms entirely.

And always carry a good field guide when you are looking for mushrooms. We recommend Mushrooming Without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms.

Two excellent mushroom field guides — if you can find them — are the Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America and the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.  Both are out of print, but you may be able to find a used copy on Amazon.

Mushrooms of the Northeast: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms — we live in New England, and this is the guidebook that we use.  Great pictures, and pocket-sized, so we can take it with us on walks.

The Complete Mushroom Hunter: Illustrated Guide to Foraging, Harvesting and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms — This book is too heavy to bring out onto the field, so on its own is not a good mushroom guide.  But what is great about this book (aside from the awesome photos) is its instructions on preparing and serving the wild mushrooms you find.  It’s full of interesting facts and even has instructions on how to grow wild mushrooms.

Caution must always be the watchword when foraging for wild mushrooms.

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