Mushrooms are a fascinating study of our planet’s biological processes, not to mention a unique culinary ingredient that can add an interesting flavor to a wide variety of dishes. Harvesting mushrooms from the wild can also be fun and educational way to spend a day in the outdoors. However, those looking to pick their own mushrooms should always learn from an experienced mushroom hunter. This is because many mushrooms are extremely poisonous, including several varieties in United States, and the line between harmless and harmful can be almost indiscernible to the untrained eye. Here are 5 wild mushrooms found in the US that you should steer way clear of.
The most poisonous mushroom in the United States, and perhaps the world, is the death cap, or Amanita phalloides. Death caps were brought into the country accidentally, but have now spread. They aren’t very common in most areas, but are spotted along the West coast and in the Northeast. Death caps are small with thick white stems and tan, bowl-shaped caps. They look much like other types of edible mushrooms. However, eating a death cap causes severe stomach cramps and vomiting. After the first symptoms, patients seem to recover. After this ‘recovery,’ the kidneys and liver shut down. If left untreated, permanent damage, coma or death can occur.
Another mushroom that contains toxins similar to the death cap is Galerina marginata. This mushroom is common not only in the United States, but throughout North America, Russia, Europe, Japan and other parts of Asia. These poisonous mushrooms have thin stems and wide, brown caps. Like the death cap, Galerina marginata mushrooms cause severe gastrointestinal problems, liver failure, coma and, eventually, death.
Jack o’ Lantern
Jack o’ lantern mushrooms, species Omphalotus olearius, are a pretty but highly poisonous species. This mushroom is common to the Northeastern states, but a variant also grows in California. These mushrooms, which are orange or orange-brown in color, grow in low clumps. In the dark, the mushroom’s gills glow. Ingesting these mushrooms will not cause death, but may make you wish it did as the symptoms of ingesting this poisonous mushroom are severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, the latter of which can cause further complications due to dehydration.
Amanita muscaria, or fly agarics, are another type of poisonous mushrooms. The mushrooms start off with round, white caps covered in fuzzy white dots. The caps eventually expand outward into a flat shape and turn yellow, then a bright red. These mushrooms, which are found across the country, contain a toxin called muscimol, which causes hallucinations, nausea and either extreme exhaustion or increased activity.
Gyromitra esculenta mushrooms, sometimes called false morels, are wrinkly, dark mushrooms found across the United States, but especially along the West coast. These mushrooms are actually considered edible, as cooking can decrease the toxins’ potency. However, even when properly cooked, these mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal issues, headache and, in severe cases, liver failure.