Mushrooms can be found in various environments worldwide, and while some of them make for delicious meals, others can be deadly. It is essential to avoid accidentally ingesting toxic ones, as they can cause severe symptoms, organ damage, and even death. Learn the top 10 most dangerous poisonous mushrooms to watch out for and stay safe while exploring the great outdoors.
1. Amanita Phalloides (Death Cap)
This sinister-looking mushroom is responsible for most fatal mushroom poisonings worldwide. It contains potent toxins called amatoxins, which can cause severe liver and kidney damage. You can recognize the death cap by its pale greenish-yellow cap, white gills, and a bulbous base. Death caps are found in forests across Europe, North Africa, and North America.
2. Amanita Virosa (Destroying Angel)
Just as deadly as its cousin the death cap, the destroying angel is mainly found in Europe and North America. This all-white mushroom contains the same lethal toxins as the death cap but can be even more dangerous due to its appetizing appearance. It has a white cap, white gills, and a white stem.
3. Galerina Marginata (Deadly Galerina)
Found in North America and Europe, these small brown mushrooms are deadly due to their amatoxins content. They typically grow on decaying wood and have a brown, slimy cap with brown gills and a slender brown stem. Deadly galerinas can be challenging to identify, so it’s best to avoid eating any small brown mushrooms found in the wild.
4. Gyromitra Esculenta (False Morel)
While true morels are a highly prized edible mushroom, their toxic lookalikes can cause severe poisoning. False morels contain gyromitrin, which converts to monomethylhydrazine (MMH) in the body, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and seizures. False morels have a wrinkled, brain-like cap that is brownish-red, and they grow in woodland areas across Europe and North America.
5. Lepiota Brunneoincarnata (Deadly Dapperling)
This dangerous little mushroom might seem harmless at first, but it contains the deadly toxin α-amanitin. With a small cap that ranges from light brown to pinkish-brown and white gills, the deadly dapperling is found in gardens and grassy areas, primarily in Europe.
6. Omphalotus Olearius (Jack-O’-Lantern Mushroom)
Known for its bioluminescent properties, the jack-o’-lantern mushroom is toxic due to its high levels of the compound muscarine. While not usually lethal, muscarine ingestion can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. The jack-o’-lantern mushroom has a bright orange cap with closely spaced orange gills and is found in forests across North America and Europe.
7. Inocybe Patouillardii (Deadly Fibrecap)
Found throughout Europe, the deadly fibrecap contains dangerous levels of muscarine, like the jack-o’-lantern mushroom. Its dull brown cap and fibrous texture make it difficult to identify, so avoid consuming any brown mushrooms with similar characteristics.
8. Cortinarius Rubellus (Deadly Webcap)
This toxic mushroom is found in coniferous and birch forests and can be identified by its rusty red cap and reddish-orange gills. The deadly webcap contains the toxin orellanine, which leads to kidney failure if ingested. It is primarily found in Europe and parts of North America.
9. Podostroma Cornu-Damae (Red-Pored Stalked Polypore)
This unusual-looking fungus is extremely toxic and can lead to fatalities if ingested. The red-pored stalked polypore contains toxins that directly attack the cells, leading to multiple organ failure. It is primarily found in Japan and Korea and can be identified by its long, dark red stalk and bright red pores at the top.
10. Clitocybe Rivulosa (False Champignon)
Also known as the fool’s funnel, this white to cream-colored mushroom contains high levels of muscarine. It resembles the edible fairy ring champignon, making it a dangerous lookalike. False champignons are found in grassy areas and lawns throughout Europe and North America.
Knowledge of these deadly mushrooms is essential to prevent accidental poisonings. Remember that it can be challenging to differentiate between edible and poisonous mushrooms, so never eat a wild mushroom unless you are 100% sure of its identification. When in doubt, leave it out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can cooking or boiling make poisonous mushrooms safe to eat?
Although cooking may reduce the toxicity of some mushrooms, it is not a foolproof method for neutralizing their poisonous effects. It’s best to avoid consuming wild mushrooms unless you are positively sure of their identification.
What should I do if I suspect I’ve ingested a poisonous mushroom?
If you think you’ve ingested a poisonous mushroom, seek immediate medical assistance. Bring a sample of the mushroom or a photo, if possible, to help identify the species and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
How can I learn more about identifying mushrooms?
There are several resources available, such as field guides, local mycological clubs, and online forums. Attending workshops and forays with experienced mycologists is a great way to learn about mushroom identification.