British Columbia

'Death cap' mushroom sends Victoria forager to hospital

A Victoria mushroom picker is seriously ill after mistakenly eating one of the world's most deadly fungi.

'If you've ingested enough of this mushroom it does destroy the liver'

A Victoria mushroom picker is in hospital in Edmonton after eating a death cap mushroom. (Shutterstock /Boku Maro)

A Victoria mushroom picker is seriously ill after eating one of the world's most deadly fungi.

The forager picked the 'death cap' — or Amanita phalloides mushroom — in a Victoria yard a few days ago, according to Island Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick. 

The unidentified person was admitted to Victoria Hospital but was subsequently transferred to Edmonton for additional treatment.

"They're not called death caps for nothing," said Stanwick. "This is not a mushroom that is indigenous and I think a lot of people are unaware this potential [danger] is out there."

Death cap mushroom shown in four different stages of growth. (Shutterstock /frank60)

Stanwick said 20 mushrooms collected from the same location — all believed to be death caps — have been sent for testing.

Death caps are responsible for 90 per cent of fatal mushroom poisonings in the world. Just half a cap of the mushroom can contain enough toxins to kill an adult.

"People experience gastrointestinal upset for a day or so and then seemingly symptoms start resolving," said Stanwick. "People think they are recovering from a bad batch of mushrooms only to go into much more serious liver complications. If you've ingested enough of the various toxins that this mushroom contains, it does destroy the liver."

Unremarkable appearance

The death cap mushroom in unremarkable in appearance and without unique identifying characteristics. Its cap can range in colour from yellowish-green to brown, and it has white gills underneath and a stem with a skirt-like membrane.

Stanwick said mushroom pickers need to be cautious and should learn the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms.

"Gain the expertise, go out with people who know what they are doing," he said. "There are species that are readily recognizable — those are the ones you want to pick. When in doubt leave it in the ground."

With files from On the Island