Death Caps and the rest: the really poisonous mushroom thread

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Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
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Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
In response to the latest fatal poisoning in the UK, we have decided to have a thread dedicated to deadly fungi, starting with Amanita phalloides - the death cap - which was responsible for the latest case, as well as most of the fatal mushroom poisonings in Europe.

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How do you know it is a deathcap?

The white bag at the base of the stem (the volva), the white ring around the stem, and the white gills that stay white are all signs that you've got an Amanita. The grey-green cap (although there is a rare white form, and an equally dangerous relative that is all-white (A. virosa)) tells you it is a death cap.

Death caps grow in deciduous woodland, usually with oak. They are not all that common, but not that rare either and locally can be very abundant in a good year for them.

The fungus is lethal in small quantities. Half a full-size mushroom will kill most adults. There is no antidote. If you eat it you will suffer kidney/liver failure. You do actually have to eat it though - touching it won't harm you and licking you fingers after touching it won't harm you much either. But once the toxin is in your bloodstream, you're probably toast.

I've never used Flickr before, so sorry if I've not posted the pictures in the best way...
 
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Nice65

Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
5,330
1,810
W.Sussex
Amanita virosa is Destroying Angel I think. I've seen many Death Caps, but there's something rather haunting about the pure white A.virosa.
 

Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
Really nasty mushroom number 2:

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/90535715@N03/8225641250/in/photostream

It's not number 2 in terms of sheer toxicity - there's several other species that are almost as bad as A. phalloides in those terms. But it wins a special mention because it is rather common and is regularly picked and eaten by people who were looking for something else. It kills by causing heart/lung failure, but in most cases the victim won't actually die (although they will probably fear for their life.)

It's called Clitocybe rivulosa or "fool's funnel" and the two things people most often get it mixed up with are

(a) Marasmius oreades (fairy ring mushroom.) In this case the confusion is caused because both species are about the same size, similar colours, and both grow in rings in grass, sometimes right next to each other at the same time.

(b) Clitopilus prunulus - (The Miller.) Clitopilus prunulis really is a dead ringer for Clitocybe rivulosa, to the extent that they are often indistinguishable from a photo - even quite a good one. They also both smell "mealy", although the miller more so. The difference is in the texture of the flesh, the habitat, and the growth habit (C. prunulus grows in open woodland, and never in rings.)

C. prunulus should only be collected by people who really do know what they are doing. M. oreades is easier to distinguish, but is also the species most frequently confused with C. rivulosa because more people go looking for it.

ETA: there used to be believed to be two species involved, but Clitocybe dealbata is now a defunct name. They're all C. rivulosa.

ETA: and when I say "dead ringer", I mean...

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/90535715@N03/8225719210/in/photostream

In terms of tasty/deadly lookalikes, there's only one pair that is more dangerous than these.

We will need another source of photos to do this comprehensively.
 
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Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
Really nasty mushroom number 3:

Amanita virosa is Destroying Angel I think. I've seen many Death Caps, but there's something rather haunting about the pure white A.virosa.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/90535715@N03/8225683358/in/photostream

Yes, perfectly named, just like the DC. I don't see them very often either, and this is the only photo I have. They are really hard to get a good photo of (I'm a newbie photographer - only just got my first half-decent camera) because they are so white.

From a toxicity point of view, it is the same as a Death Cap. But it causes fewer problems because not many people forage for pure white mushrooms with gills (there are a few (e.g. Hygrophorus eburneus), but they are not widely eaten in Europe.)
 
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Samon

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 24, 2011
3,970
42
Britannia!
excellent mate!

about time we had something like this too, and with any luck a newbie mushroom hutner will browse the net and come across this before venturing into potential hazards! :)

Is it true the 'shaggy ink cap' (Coprinus comatus) is toxic if eaten by a person with alchohol in their blood? There was an abundance of them growing on a nearby golf course that I collected but after a bit more research I decided not to eat them as I had drunk alchohol the previous and present day.
 

Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
Is it true the 'shaggy ink cap' (Coprinus comatus) is toxic if eaten by a person with alchohol in their blood?

No. Wrong species, and the situation is further confused by the latin names all changing.

There is no longer any such thing as an "inkcap" from a taxonomic point of view. The entire family Coprinaceae has ceased to exist, and most of the members of the genus Coprinus have been moved to three new genera in Psathyrellaceae. The one that reacts with alcohol is the "common inkcap" which used to be called Coprinus atramentarius is now known as Coprinopsis atramentaria. Coprinus comatus remains the type species of Coprinus, but it is now a tiny genus with no other UK species, and it has been moved to Agaricaceae - genetic evidence has shown it to be more closely related to the shop/field mushrooms, parasols and puffballs than the other "inkcaps".
 
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Wook

Settler
Jun 24, 2012
688
3
Angus, Scotland
Because of exactly the hazards you mention I've always been put off mushrooming.

I kind of wish there was an evening class I could take. I understand there are some fungi that are safe for amateurs to gather because they don't look like anything deadly.
 

Iona

Nomad
Mar 11, 2009
387
0
Ashdown Forest
Because of exactly the hazards you mention I've always been put off mushrooming.

I kind of wish there was an evening class I could take. I understand there are some fungi that are safe for amateurs to gather because they don't look like anything deadly.

Hi there Wook,

I don't think there's any reason to be put off, just a case of taking your time, learning for yourself rather than having others ID things for you, and putting your trust in the right people to help you do the learning...

It's a fun hobby, even if you don't start eating things straight away, and you're more likely to have an unpleasant experience if YOU don't feel 100% happy with what you're eating anyway, so worth learning. Your idea of an evening class is a very good one though. :)

Iona
 

Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
I don't think there's any reason to be put off, just a case of taking your time...

Foraging for fungi taught me the meaning of the word "patience." Impatience, leading to people seeing what they want to see rather than what is actually there, is a causal factor in many poisonings. They want to find a chanterelle, so when they see a brown roll-rim they manage to convince themselves that they've found what they were looking for.

So long as you've accepted that it takes a very long time to learn this stuff, and that you must take it bit by bit and just try to learn whatever nature sends your way rather than immediately finding all those famous species, then you'll probably be fine.
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
36,709
2,628
S. Lanarkshire
On the last thread I said that I'm only really interested in what I can use. I'm truly not interested in recording species on a tick list, despite every validity for that activity.

I don't think I'm alone in this.

This isn't a mycological site; it's a bushcraft one. There will always be people more interested in taking the subject to a much more in depth knowledge, but the majority will only want to know what is useful, and what is most definitely not.

If we can have easily read, easily absorbed, "This is poisonous, Do Not Eat!", information that covers those few species that are toxic, it would be much appreciated.

We do understand the constraints on that, but it's not beyond mortal wit to describe in a multitude of ways just how to recognise fungi......and the restraint that says quite clearly that if you're not sure, just don't touch it.

This forum is a social place, a discussion among friends sort of place. :D
If you wouldn't let your family or friends eat something bad, why would anyone risk one of us ?

If no one writes and gives information, then folks don't learn and are not encouraged to go and look for themselves too.

I know that since the topic was raised, I've both searched through my books and googled sites on line. But this is the site I sit down to read over a cuppa :D

Thank you both for the information :D It's appreciated :cool:

cheers,
Toddy
 

Iona

Nomad
Mar 11, 2009
387
0
Ashdown Forest
Hi Toddy!

I wasn't suggesting that everyone gets into recording, just that it's a way to gauge the depth of knowledge of an instuctor should you go on a course... You know their identifications are good!

And I think it's great to have a thread to look through, I just don't think it can replace meeting people and learning first hand is all... And it's fun that way!

I've some lovely pics of various things, I'll rake through them for the poisons... ;)

Iona



On the last thread I said that I'm only really interested in what I can use. I'm truly not interested in recording species on a tick list, despite every validity for that activity.

I don't think I'm alone in this.

This isn't a mycological site; it's a bushcraft one. There will always be people more interested in taking the subject to a much more in depth knowledge, but the majority will only want to know what is useful, and what is most definitely not.

If we can have easily read, easily absorbed, "This is poisonous, Do Not Eat!", information that covers those few species that are toxic, it would be much appreciated.

We do understand the constraints on that, but it's not beyond mortal wit to describe in a multitude of ways just how to recognise fungi......and the restraint that says quite clearly that if you're not sure, just don't touch it.

This forum is a social place, a discussion among friends sort of place. :D
If you wouldn't let your family or friends eat something bad, why would anyone risk one of us ?

If no one writes and gives information, then folks don't learn and are not encouraged to go and look for themselves too.

I know that since the topic was raised, I've both searched through my books and googled sites on line. But this is the site I sit down to read over a cuppa :D

Thank you both for the information :D It's appreciated :cool:

cheers,
Toddy
 

demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
4,436
446
-------------
On the subject if being able to verify whats what I'm slightly surprised that there's been no mention of doing spore prints yet. Well, unless I've missed it.
 

Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
On the subject if being able to verify whats what I'm slightly surprised that there's been no mention of doing spore prints yet. Well, unless I've missed it.

It just hasn't come up in the conversation yet. Spore prints are the easiest test you can do if you've got something and you aren't even sure which genus/family it belongs to. In some cases this makes a key difference. It is particularly important when you are first getting into foraging for fungi and you still don't know how to distinguish the major groups. It's easy to do, and absolutely foolproof (unless you are colour-blind...)
 

Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
I think a list of what's deadly, and also false friends - those that may or may not be deadly but will make you ill and look similar to edibles would be extremely useful

DEADLY:

Lepiota aspera
Lepiota brunneoincarnata
Lepiota subincarnata
Lepiota fuscovinacea
Galerina marginata
Inocybe erubescens
Cortinarius orrellanum
Cortinarius orrelanus
Cortinarius speciosissimus
MAYBE OTHER CORTINARIUS SPECIES
Clitocybe rivulosa
Pleurocybella porrigens (disputed)
Amanita phalloides
Amanita virosa
Amanita gemmata
Amanita pantherina (not usually fatal)
Boletus satanus
Paxillus involutus (long-term problem)
Gyromitra esculenta (long-term problem)

Poisonous but not deadly, and "false friends" are too numerous to list, as are those species which are toxic raw but edible cooked.
 
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Geoff Dann

Native
Sep 15, 2010
1,246
26
53
Sussex
www.geoffdann.co.uk
Really nasty mushrooms #4: The whole genus Cortinarius ("Webcaps")

After Amanita, the most dangerous genus of fungi is this one, and from a foraging point of view, as well as a mycological one, it's a right pain in the backside (or if you're a masochist, a really fun subject to get into.) Cortinarius is the biggest genus of larger fungi by a large margin. To put it in perspective, Amanita is quite a big genus and this has about 600 species worldwide. Cortinarius has over 2000, and the vast majority are almost impossible to identify to species without microscopy. They are very diverse from a visual point of view, although all of them have dark gills and brown spores. This diversity means that it can be very hard to get into your head all the different ways a cortinarius can look. I suggest people just google for "cortinarius" and they'll see what I mean.

There are at least three deadly cortinarius species, and a very large number of other toxic ones, some of them seriously so. Here are a couple I happen to have photos of.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/90535715@N03/8228742837/in/photostream

This is the type species of Cortinarius, which means it is the "root" which will always remain the basis of what a Cortinarius is, even if the rest of the genus is split up (as it may well be, because it's already divided into six large sections). It's called a Girdled Webcap (C. trivialis). I had arrived at this ID myself (it is one of the easier ones to ID) but would not have been sure without microscopy (which I don't do), or without confirmation of the ID from the photo by Andreas Gminder, who is probably the leading authority on the subject in Europe. It shows clearly the "cortina" or web/veil which joins the stem to the cap and gives the genus its name. If you see this then you know you have a cortinarius, but it is often not easy to see, or been washed off completely.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/90535715@N03/8229809840/in/photostream

I don't know which species this is, but I'm guessing it is C. brunneus var. glandicolor. This one looks closer to the deadly species (imagine a mixture of the two I've posted and you'll be close).

Basically, Cortinarius exists just to confuse and confound mycologists and foragers alike - it makes the whole business of identifying fungi much harder because there's so many of them, they're so varied and so damned hard to identify...and as a result very little is actually known about most of them. Your average Cortinarius is listed as rare, and you'll never find it, but there's so many of them that you're guaranteed to find some of these supposedly rare species anyway (most of them aren't that rare - it's just that they are such a pain to identify that a lot of them are either ignored or misidentified.) And when you take into account the fact that almost the entire genus is considered to be toxic to some extent and that more than one of them can kill you, you have reason to be very cautious if you think you might be looking at a cortinarius and considering eating it. They've been confused in the past with things as diverse as chanterelles and penny buns (the latter in the case of Nicholas Evans, the author of "The Horse Whisperer" who is currently awaiting a kidney transplant.)

Of these 2000+ species, only a handful are listed as edible. Of those, Roger Phillips lists one of them (in his "Wild Food" book) as good (C. purpurascens, which looks like a wood blewit), but I don't believe he's seriously recommending people to go collecting it. I have tried eating a couple of other supposedly-edible and just-about-identifiable species, but they didn't taste particularly nice to me. I'd personally recommend leaving the eating of cortinariuses to people who own microscopes and know how to use them.
 
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