Mushroom Poisoning: Backyard Poisons

The question of whether the complete mushroom base should be pulled out or gets cut is often asked. “Either system is good for the mushrooms with lamellae, provided one digs all around the base of the stalk so as to collect the volva if there is one wrapped around the base. Otherwise, the volva could remain overlooked in the soil, and a sample of some deadly amanita collected without the volva wrapped around the base of the stalk could be mistaken for an innocent palliate. There is no need to use a knife to collect specimens of Cantharellus; but it is better to cut at the base with a sharp knife the lignicolous mushrooms: the Pleurotus, the Polyporales, the Armillariamella and similar species; by doing so you will be able to collect more later, for they grow in the same place near the base, if left under the soil”

Other reasons for the importance of understanding mushroom are: because more backyards are now scattered with possible poisonous fungus, the increase of poisoning cases, and the expanding interest of mushroom enthusiasts along with the specialists_ the mycologists and the toxicologist who add new undiscovered findings or produce antidotes for unexpected inquiries. In addition, the fungi are excellent fertilizer because of its decomposition ability.

Not all people enjoy mushrooms. When questioned why, each individual gave a different response. One said plainly, “It just doesn’t entice me. It is a fungus. I can’t imagine myself eating it.” Disgusting is usually a choice adjective chosen by anyone who loathe the fungi, commonly seen by them more vividly as a mould on rotten fruits, and the sight of them decomposing a carcass on the ground.

Some poisonous ones are very rare, seen only in photographs, yet differentiating between edible species and the mild or deadly poisonous frightened people; hesitating them from trying it at all. More importantly for those people, they are not as willing to risk a catastrophe, which could be brought on by a poison. A poison can be as simple as a certain tree or the area the mushroom is growing on, such as the case for the following incident that was reported to Mushroom Poison Case Registry/MPCR. “Three of the 5 cases involving Laetiporus sulphureus collected the mushroom from a black locust stump. Previously they had successfully eaten L. sulphureus growing on live oak. Black locust is known to contain phytotoxins, which might have contaminated the mushroom. In the western states L. sulphureus has the reputation of being toxic when collected from eucalyptus trees”.

I have experienced a bout of vomiting at the age of six. My aunt had gathered a certain mushroom she thought was edible, which must have been her first specimen, for the day’s dinner. Although we ate with the other members of our family, including my other aunt, and her children and their father, no one else dared to touch the prepared dish of mushroom, flavored to taste with simple salt and garlic. I tried the mushroom without much thought, trusting it to be good. It was rather tasty with the rice, and I managed to eat my dinner as always with no complaints. Since I was under my aunt’s care, I felt she and I were the only two to share the dish prepared only for us.

It must have been about an hour later that she and I became sick to our stomachs. It seemed it would never end as both of us squatted on the dirt in bare feet, emptying our stomach contents away. Our survival was due to an intravenous injection for dehydration because of excessive vomiting. To this day, I can still hear my aunt’s haunting sound of sickness.


Mushroom Poison Case Registry, 1999

The Complete Book of Mushrooms, 1974

The Mushroom Hunter’s Field Guide, 1996

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