Beware the Deathcap Mushroom.

There is something compelling about the idea of picking your own mushrooms. Walking eyes-down amongst smells of wet wildflower or forests of birdcall. Laughing with friends or family. Perhaps a small cane basket to collect them. Perhaps a soft checkered tea towel to cover them. A wistful yearning to reconnect with the earth and with more simple matters.

On the practical side, for many mushroom gathering presents a brief opportunity to access a free open platter of delicious meals. For yet a smaller population it’s more about opening the third eye for a few minutes of shroom induced psychedelia.

Summer and Autumn are the seasons to be particularly careful if you are picking your own mushrooms to eat. After the recent dump of rain we have experienced, there may soon be an abundance appearing in our gardens, parks and wild areas.

The aptly named Deathcap mushrooms (amanita phalloides) are particularly toxic. As little as half a mushroom is enought to lead to fulminant hepatic (liver) failure and death in adults.

They are found widely distributed throughout Europe, and in Australia, they are frequently found in Canberra and some areas of Victoria.

Deathcap Mushrooms are usually found growing in close proximity to oak trees particularly following rain in warmer weather.

All parts of the mushroom are poisonous and cooking them does not make them safe.

They also look similar to the straw mushroom (Volvariella Volvacea) which does not grow in Australia but is very popular throughout Asia.

Photo Credit: Archenzo

I could bang on with some descriptive details of Aminita, but the bottom line is that unless you are extremely confident in your own mushroom identification knowledge, you are best to limit your harvesting skills searching the supermarket shelves and markets stalls.

Cane basket and tea towel are optional.

Clinical features of acute Amanita phalloides poisoning.

  1. 0 to 6–18 hours after ingestion: Asymptomatic
  2. 6–24 hours after ingestion: Gastroenteritis, including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diffuse diarrhoea, and dehydration.
  3. 1–7 days after ingestion: you may feel a little better with a resolution of your gastrointestinal symptoms. However, progressive hepatic failure hen occurs with potential for multisystem organ failure and a 10%–30% mortality rate
  4. 7 days after ingestion: Complete resolution of symptoms occurs in most survivors over weeks or months; chronic hepatitis may persist

Source: Roberts, D., Hall, M., Falkland, M., Strasser, S. and Buckley, N. (2013). Amanita phalloides poisoning and treatment with silibinin in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Medical Journal of Australia, 198(1), pp.43-47.

If you think you or someone you know may have ingested deathcap mushrooms you should seek urgent medical attention.

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