Poisonous Mushrooms

Illness can be caused by several species of mushrooms, but only a few are deadly. Listed below are some of the more common poisonous species.

Destroying Angel

This is the most poisonous mushroom. It is a gill fungus that is relatively easy to distinguish from edible species after a careful examination. Yet 90 per cent of all the deaths from mushroom poisoning are estimated to be caused by this species. The destroying angel is white throughout and has a distinct cup at the base of the stalk and a well-developed ring below the cap. The spores are white and the gills are never brown. Its poison, phallin, separates the corpuscles in the blood from the serum.

Fly Agaric

This mushroom is deadly only if eaten in large quantities. It grows as much as one foot (30 cm) tall in woods and along roadsides. The top of the cap is straw yellow to reddish orange, spotted with white or pale-yellow warts. The gills are white or pale yellow. One of its poisons, muscarine, paralyzes the nerves controlling heart action.

The fly agaricThe fly agaric mushroom is deadly if eaten in large quantities.

This is an orange-yellow mushroom that grows in clumps on stumps or logs in the woods. It is luminescent, giving off a weird glow on rainy nights. If eaten, it will cause violent illness, but it is not considered deadly.

Panther Fungus

This is a yellow, gray, or brownish species that produces a poisoning similar to, but milder than, that of the fly agaric. The volva is usually smaller in the panther fungus than in other species.

Emetic Russula

This mushroom causes violent illness. Its cap is usually deep red.

Despite the danger, small amounts of fly agaric or other poisonous species are partaken of by certain people in Siberia and Mexico to induce visions or hallucinations during religious or orgiastic rites.

Most mushrooms belong to the class Homobasidiomycetae of the division Basidiomycota. Morels and truffles belong to the class Euascomycetae of the division Ascomycota.

The meadow mushroom is Agaricus campestris; horse mushroom, A. arvensis. Both belong to the family Agaricaceae.

Coral mushrooms are of the family Clavariaceae.

The oyster mushroom is Pleurotus ostreatus; fairy ring mushroom, Marasmius oreades; shiitake, Lentinus edodes; jack-o'-lantern, Omphalotus olearius. These four belong to the family Tricholomataceae.

The shaggymane is Coprinus comatus of the family Coprinaceae.

The giant puffball is Calvatia gigantea of the family Lycoperdaceae.

Morels belong to the families Helvellaceae and Morchellaceae.

The truffles belong to the genus Tuber of the family Tuberaceae.

The destroying angel is Amanita virosa; fly agaric, A. muscaria; panther fungus, A. pantherina. These three are of the family Amanitaceae.

Emetic russula is Russula emetica of the family Russulaceae.