A mushroom is actually the fruit produced by certain types of fungus. In the United States alone, there are roughly 5,000 species of mushroom of which at least 100 are poisonous and twelve are deadly. Even with such a small portion of mushrooms being dangerous there are more than 9,000 hospitalizations each year in the US from mushroom poisoning.
This number may be attributed to intentional ingestion of a certain mushrooms for their hallucinogenic affects. In search of what is commonly called “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms” on the street many people misidentify mushrooms and ingest varieties that are more poisonous. Even with the association between drugs and mushrooms, children under six make up the bulk of hospitalizations. Properly identifying dangerous elements in your home environment can help prevent accidental ingestion by children.
While the effects of poisonous mushrooms vary widely by type, amount of ingestion, and the size and age of the consumer, by definition a poisonous mushroom is simply a mushroom or toadstool that causes an adverse reaction when eaten.
This guide on how to identify poisonous mushrooms will teach you how to identify poisonous and edible mushrooms as well as what to do if you or someone else have ingested what you believe to be a poisonous mushroom.
There are twelve categories of poisonous mushrooms separated by the symptoms they cause. Of these, about five specific types of mushrooms cause the majority of poisonings brought into hospitals. This section will outline the twelve categories as well as describe those five mushrooms in detail.
Twelve Categories of Mushrooms
These are the type of mushroom that cause hallucinations. On the street, they are called among other things, shrooms, magic mushrooms, or God’s flesh. Within 30-60 minutes of ingestion hallucinations, intoxication, altered mood, and/or compulsive movement or laughter may occur. Some users also experience vomiting, muscle weakness, nausea, and a lack of coordination. In children a fever may also be present.
These types of mushrooms often cause death as a result of liver or kidney failure. Symptoms include violent vomiting, severe diarrhea which may or may not contain blood or mucous and sharp abdominal pain. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 6 to 24 hours after ingestion but are most common within 10-14 hours.
These mushrooms often cause kidney failure. Around 36 hours to 11 days after ingestion severe dehydration accompanied by a burning thirst, nausea, headaches and lack of appetite may occur.
Ingestion creates a feeling similar to being drunk. After 30-60 minutes consumer may experience confusion, delirium, muscle spasms, and minor visual disturbances. These mushrooms wear off quickly and usually cause drowsiness.
Within 6 to 8 hours a feeling of fullness occurs which may or may not be accompanied by vomiting, water diarrhea, headache, fatigue, intense pain in the liver and/or stomach and cramping. Jaundice and seizures are a possibility.
Muscarine Histamine Mushrooms
This mushroom causes unique symptoms present in no other type. They include pinpoint pupils, sweating, drooling, blurred vision, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and asthmatic breathing. They may also cause watery bowel movements and eyes. Symptoms occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours.
This mushroom shows symptoms if consumed with alcohol or if alcohol is consumed within 5 days of consumption. Symptoms include a metallic taste in the mouth, flushing of the neck and head, numbness in the extremities and heart palpitations.
Abdominal cramping, and severe to moderate vomiting and diarrhea may occur. In children, dehydration may result and require medical attention. Symptoms occur with 30 – 90 minutes and last approximately 6 hours.
Five Most Common and/or Dangerous Culprits of Mushroom Poisoning:
Falling under the Cylopeptid category, many of this species of mushroom are deadly. For example a single cap of ”Amanita virosa” also known as the destroying angel can kill a full-grown adult human.
Amanitas grow most frequently in the summer and fall on woodland floors. Young Amanitas look like a puffball. As the mushroom matures this ball will break open leaving a sack-like cup around the stem. The stem will have a ring, and the top will be parasol shaped and white, yellow, brown or red. These mushrooms have white gills and spores.
These mushrooms fall under the Monomethylhydrazine category and can actually sometimes be edible. Monomethyl hydrazine, the chemical that causes the adverse reactions can vary in potency from mushroom to mushroom. In addition sensitivity to this chemical can vary from person to person. Certain cooking techniques can also lower the potency of this chemical. These mushrooms have caused death, but also have been eaten safely.
False morels have an irregular shaped wrinkled cap and appear black, grey, brown, reddish, or white in color. The caps will bulge outward hanging free of the stem at the bottom and have folds, wrinkles, or lobes unlike the pitted, inward ridges of a true morel that attach to the stem at the bottom.
Little Brown Mushrooms
This is a catchall of the look-a-like medium to small brown mushrooms. Some of these are safe to eat, others are not and can even be deadly, but they all look so similar mistakes are easy to make. As a rule, if you do not know mushrooms well, avoid the little brown ones.
The drug shrooms comes from this category. These mushrooms are often small and brown, grey, tan or yellow with a conical cap. Defined gills are generally present and brown in color but may appear blue where bruised. Shrooms most commonly grow on decayed wood or manure.
Jack O’ Lantern
Though not deadly this fruity smelling mushroom can cause severe stomach upset. This mushroom looks and tastes good, appearing in a pumpkin color and letting off a faint green glow on dark nights. They grow in clusters near wood sources such as stumps or trees.
Green Spoured Lepiota
Commonly found growing on lawns these mushrooms fall into the gastrointestinal category. These mushrooms are parasol shaped, have a defined ring around the stem, and may be cream, white, or tan in color. They have gills, which will turn a soft green with age. Their spores are also green.
This small portion of common poison culprits does not even scratch a pore off the bulk of mushroom species.
Though positively identifying the type of mushroom found is required to eliminate all doubt it is poisonous there are general rules that can help one avoid eating a bad mushroom.
-Always pick only firm, healthy, insect free specimens. In cases, decay can cause a safe mushroom to become unsafe.
-Whenever eating any type of mushroom for the first time, safe or not, take a test cap. Some people are allergic to even safe species.
-If you are unsure of the species, throw it out.
-When collecting unknown varieties note details such as where it was growing and how it was growing. These details may help when you get home to identify it. Also keep these mushrooms separate so they do not contaminate others if they are poisonous.
Common Characteristics of a Poisonous Mushroom
A poisonous mushroom may have some, one or all of these characteristics.
-Warts or Scales on the cap, that look like colored patches.
-A cap that is umbrella or parasol shaped.
-A bulbous or round ball at the base that may or may not be underground.
-A white spore print. (See how to obtain this below.)
-A ring around the stem.
-White thin gills
-It’s small and brown
How to Take a Spore Print
While spore prints can’t usually single out just what type of mushroom you’ve found, they can narrow it down. For instance if you think your mushroom is a type that has black spores, and your print comes back white, you’re wrong.
Spore prints are simple to take.
-Cut the cap from the mushroom.
-Place the cap gills down on a white or black surface or paper. For optimal results, use half and half. Half the cap on a white piece, and half on black.
-Place a cup over the mushroom and allow to sit until a spore print is visible (1-12 hours).
-Observe the color.
If you believe, you, your child or someone else has consumed an unknown or poisonous species take the following action.
-Immediately call a doctor, hospital or poison control.
-Take note of the time of ingestion, the time of the first symptom, and the time any time symptoms began. Also note if you or the individual have drank alcohol recently.
-Bag the mushroom or food containing the mushroom.
-Go to the doctor or hospital with said information and items. In the event you did not have any left over have a detailed description of the mushroom ready including where you found it and how it was growing.
If you or someone else, even a child has ingested the mushrooms within the last hour, induce vomiting.
To help prevent the poisoning of animals or children remove all wild mushrooms from your yard, safe or not. If a child or animal eats a safe mushroom from the yard and decided they are good to eat, they may repeat this action and get an unsafe mushroom. Mushrooms are also infamous for incest infestation.