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Death Cap Mushroom: Key Facts

Did you know that the poisonous death cap mushroom is easy to mistake for several edible mushroom species? Keep reading to learn more about this and other death cap mushroom key facts.

Quick Facts About Death Cap Mushrooms

Scientific NameAmanita Phalloides
Physical DescriptionSmall to medium-sized mushrooms with smooth, circular caps. Gills and stems are white, while the caps may be white, greenish, or yellowish in color. These mushrooms begin as small, egg-shaped growths; they grow taller and the caps flatten as they mature. At first, the entire mushroom is covered in a thin veil, which breaks as the mushroom matures. Death caps have a prominent volva, or cup, at the base of the stem.
DistributionWidespread throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and North America.
HabitatFound mostly in temperate regions, death caps grow near oak, beach, pine, and other types of trees in forests, woodland areas, lawns, parks, and neighborhoods.
Edible or Toxic?Highly toxic
Symptoms of Poisoning– Nausea
– Vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Jaundice
– Seizure
– Coma
– Organ failure
– Death
AromaMild; death caps may smell slightly sweet, potato-like, or may have no aroma at all.
Growth PatternsMay grow singularly or in small clusters; if you find one, there will likely be more nearby. They grow generally in shady areas under deciduous hardwood trees and some evergreens.
Lookalikes– Wood mushrooms
– Field mushrooms
– Paddy straw mushrooms
– Green russula mushrooms
– Albino blushers
– Puffballs Destroying angels (toxic)
– False death cap (toxic)
Identifying Features– Distinctive volva, or cup, at the base
– Pure white flesh
– Thin veil that breaks and leaves a ring around the stem as the mushroom matures

What Are Death Cap Mushrooms?

Death cap mushrooms are quite possibly the world’s most toxic mushrooms. According to the Australian National Botanic Gardens, as little as half a death cap mushroom can kill an adult.

Death caps are easy to confuse with several different types of edible mushrooms because they are very generic looking. Sometimes they are all white, though most often they have greenish or yellowish caps. 

At their base, each death cap grows from a distinctive volva. Their volva, stem and gills are pure white, and if you were to cut open a death cap, you would find that it is solid and white inside as well.

Check out the following video to learn more about properly identifying death cap mushrooms.

How Do Death Cap Mushrooms Adapt?

Death caps are native to Europe and have spread throughout the world. They have adapted to growing with different types of trees and even in slightly different climates; but how they adapt is not fully understood.

It seems that they are simply a resilient species that aren’t too picky about what they use as a host tree. The fungus can be transported from place to place by hitching a ride on tree roots, moving through the soil, and sending out spores.

Regardless of how they get their start in an area, once they do, they’re very difficult to get rid of.

What to Do in Case of Death Cap Mushroom Poisoning

If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing death cap poisoning, stay hydrated and get to the hospital as quickly as possible. It may also be a good idea to take activated charcoal, which can absorb some of the toxins from your digestive system.

Prompt treatment is the best way to avoid death or long term organ damage. If you don’t get treatment right away, these mushrooms will cause your liver and kidneys to shut down over a period of several days, ultimately leading to death or the need for an organ transplant.

Conclusion

Death caps are highly toxic mushrooms. The best way to avoid accidental poisoning is to be familiar with this mushroom and use extreme caution while foraging.

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