Dangers of picking the wrong mushrooms

After my recents mushroom huntings …  Several people has made jokes about “I hope you didn’t pick the wrong ones now”, “I hope you checked them well”, ” I hope you didn’t catch any of the lethal ones” and so on.

Hence, although I DID check all the mushrooms well, even before I put them in the basket when still in the forest, although I checked them very well (washing, cleaning and drying) after I came home, and I threw away all waste extras… all these comments and also recent writings in the papers – telling stories of people that made the mistake of not recognizing the correct ones from the bad ones…  I wanted to learn more.

I have a huge fascination for different kind of natural poisons (in mushrooms, as well as in snakes, amphibians (frogs, insects) and plants). Mainly to learn how to stay away from them, or if you are bitten by a snake, how long do you have till you reach the critical point and searching for a doctor is pointless. I guess you start wanting to learn about such things after having spent some time in the jungle and in tropical countries where such subjects may become reality in your life at some point.

Hereunder a few of the results from my mushroom research:

Golden Chanterelle (Chantarellus Cibarius)

Chanterelle,   (Cantharellus cibarius)

Their color may vary from yellow to yellow/orange. The hat will turn orange’ish if damaged. It is meaty and funnel-shaped.

On the lower surface, underneath the smooth cap, it has gill-like ridges that run almost all the way down its stipe, which tapers down seamlessly from the cap. It has a fruity smell, reminiscent of apricots and a mildly peppery taste. This is one of the best of the edible mushrooms.

The Chanterelle is one of the richest sources of vitamin D, vitamin C and potassium.

False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis Aurantiaca):

False Chanterelle, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

This mushroom is growing widely spread in Europe. This mushroom is still easy to distinguish from the real chanterelle.

The distinguishing factors are color (true Chanterelle is uniform egg-yellow, while the false one is more orange in hue and graded, with darker center) and attachment of gills to the stem (true Chanterelle does not have true, blade-like gills–rather it has rib-like folds running down the stem).

It has been described as edible (though not tasty) by some experts, but other authors describe it as poisonous. This mushroom contains a lot of arabitol, which may account for the gastrointestinal symptoms some people experience. Recently it has been proved that this genus Hygrophoropsis is taxonomically quite near false, and thus recommended not to be eaten.

Funnel Chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis)

Funnel Chanterelle, Cantharellus Tubaeformis

Also called “Yellowfoot” or “Winter mushroom” because it often grows late in the season and can be found until late november, even in Norway). This was also a huge part of my catch from my last mushroom hunt.

Its characteristics are:
Cap: The cap is convex and at most times hollow down the middle. Dark brown cap or sometimes greyish with paler gills. The gills are widely separated, and of lighter color than the cap.
Stem: A hollow yellow stem.
Shape: It is a trumpet-shaped mushroom
Taste: It is stronger, but less fruity than the golden chanterelle. It has a very distinctive smokey, peppery taste when raw.
Habitat: It grows on moss or rotten wood, is found mostly in spruce forests, often found in great numbers late in the mushroom season.

This is where the problems arise. This mushroom often grows in great numbers. Often it is located in groups of 10-100s and people reach down to pick them in groups. Sometimes not only the Funnel Chanterelle comes home with you.

The Lethal Webcaps often grow in the same area as the Funnel Chanterelle. Often they grow so close to the edible mushroom, that it can accidentally be picked and brought home. This is why you are always recommended to attend organized mushroom picking tours when you start, check them towards newly updated mushroom books AND / or with a mushroom expert as well.

Poison and its effect
The lethal webcaps has a resemblance in color to the funnel chanterelle, but few of the other characteristics. However newbies will often not know the difference and this can lead to be fatal if not treated in time as the Lethal webcaps contain the Orellanine, Orellin, Orellinin and Cortinarin A,B,C poison – which will take 2-4 days – up to 3 weeks – before the first sympthoms arise. Sympthoms can be flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headaches etc.), followed by early stages of renal failure (immense thirst, frequent urination, pain on and around the kidneys), and eventually decreased or nonexistent urine output and other symptoms of renal failure occur. If left untreated death will follow. There is no known antidote against orellanin poisoning, but early hospitalization and treatment can sometimes prevent serious injuries and usually prevent death. If you suspect orellanin poisoning, acting on it quickly can save your life.

As for the The Lethal webcaps, there are 2 species.

Both of these mushrooms can be confused with each other and many incidents of mushroom poisoning have occurred where inexperienced mushroom hunters have confused these mushrooms with edible mushrooms, such as the chanterelle.

Fools Webcap (Cortinarius Orellanus)

Fools Webcap, Cortinarius Orellanus

Cap: 3–8.5 cm, concave
Spore color: Rusty brown/orange.
Gills: Similar to those of the deadly webcap
Location: Common throughout Europe. Has been observed as far north as mid Norway
Habitat: In forests, around trees where the soil is alkaline or acidic
Other details:Young specimens of the Fool’s webcap also contain a web between the cap and the stem that partially or completely disappears as the specimen ages.

Deadly webcap (Cortinarius rubellus)

Deadly webcap, Cortinarius Rubellus

Spore color: Rusty brown to orange
Cap: 3–7 cm rusty brown to orange. Often has a steeper and darker colored elevation at the top of the cap, but this varies greatly from specimen to specimen
Gills: Wide gaps between the gills which can be, but are not necessarily, connected to the stem
Location: One of the most common mushrooms in Norway (also a common mushroom in temperate parts of Northern Europe).
Habitat: Pine woods with acidic soil
Other details: Young specimens contain a pale web between the cap and the stem. Sometimes parts of this web can be seen as a yellow ring on the stem or at the edge of the cap. The fruiting body of the mushroom blossoms from mid-summer to late fall.

Check your mushroom catch of the day thoroughly. Make sure you cought the good ones and if you have picked mushrooms you don’t know for certain if are good to eat – Have mushroom inspectors check them out for you.

In Norway (articles in Norwegian):
Poison Information – 22 59 13 00 (24 hours)
Poisonous mushrooms – http://www.helsedirektoratet.no/giftinfo/giftige_sopp/
Avoid getting poisoned

Other Information about mushrooms in Norway (webpages in Norwegian)

Mushroom controls in Norway


One response to “Dangers of picking the wrong mushrooms

  1. Pingback: Beautiful weekend in the forest. | Home and Away

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