Article: Death-Cap Mushrooms are Spreading Across North America [The Atlantic]

“The death caps were slightly domed, with white gills and faintly greenish stems. At the bottom of each stem was a silky slipper, called the volva, which was a purer white than the rest of the mushroom. The Amanita phalloides species accounts for more than 90 percent of mushroom-related poisonings and fatalities worldwide.

“Kroeger, who studied the biochemistry of medicinal mushrooms while working as a lab assistant and technician at the University of British Columbia, is a founding member and the former president of the Vancouver Mycological Society, and the go-to authority on mushroom poisonings in western Canada. When Amanita phalloides first appeared in British Columbia in 1997, he took careful note. It had never before been seen in Canada. The single reported specimen was found among imported European sweet chestnut trees near the town of Mission, an hour east of Vancouver.”


“Without fail, Kroeger noted, death caps appeared in urban neighborhoods, not in deep woods or city parks. They showed up most often in the strip of grass between sidewalks and streets.

“For the past few years, Kroeger and his network of fungiphiles have been putting up posters in infected neighborhoods. The BC Centre for Disease Control sends out his warnings in press releases, and he sets up a booth at street events in order to warn anyone willing to listen that death caps should be left alone. When I joined him in East Vancouver, most of the people he stopped on the sidewalk—parents with strollers and passersby with groceries—had already heard of the invader. A man in a tool belt coming off a house remodel said he’d seen death caps a few blocks away in East Vancouver, and Kroeger scribbled down the address. I asked the man why he was so interested in mushrooms; he said he just liked to know what was growing in the neighborhood.”


“Amanita phalloides are said to be quite tasty, and a person who eats one could feel fine for a day or two before illness sets in. The poison is taken up by the liver cells, where it inhibits an enzyme responsible for protein synthesis; without protein, the cells begin to die, and the patient may start to experience nausea and diarrhea—symptoms that can easily be attributed to general food poisoning or other ailments. “If the patient doesn’t realize the connection, doesn’t see the illness as a result of eating a mushroom a day or two earlier, it’s a hard diagnosis,” said Vo.”

Read Craid Childs’ full article (I pulled three excerpts here) at The Atlantic: Death-Cap Mushrooms are Spreading Across North America

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