Warning on wild mushrooms in Victoria

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 29th May 2013

Autumn conditions have created ideal growing conditions for poisonous mushrooms, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has warned.

“People should avoid gathering wild mushrooms around Melbourne, in rural Victoria and from their own gardens because of the risk of collecting poisonous varieties, which may appear very similar to edible varieties,” said Dr Rosemary Lester, Victorian Chief Health Officer.

Dr Lester identified two of the State’s most dangerous varieties, the Death Cap fungus (Amanita phalloides) and the Yellow Staining mushroom (Agaricus xanthodermus).

The warning coincides with the arrival of the mushrooming season, spawned when rain encourages growth of the fungi in the still warm soil.

“While commercially-sold mushrooms are safe, poisonings can occur when people gathering wild mushrooms inadvertently include toxic species,” Dr Lester said.

“Anyone who becomes ill after eating mushrooms should seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom for identification,” she said.

According to Dr Lester, the most dangerous variety is the Death Cap mushroom, which is usually found near deciduous trees, especially around oaks, in some Melbourne suburbs and rural areas.

The Death Cap is a large mushroom, with a cap ranging from light olive green to greenish yellow in colour. The gills are white, and the base of the stem is surrounded by a cup-shaped sac.

“The Death Cap is extremely toxic and responsible for 90 per cent of all mushroom poisoning deaths. Death can follow within 48 hours,” Dr Lester said.

The Yellow Staining mushroom, which is often gathered and mixed with field mushrooms, can cause nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea in some people. Dr Lester said this variety turns yellow when the cap or stem is bruised by a thumbnail.

“If you have any doubts about a species of fungus or mushroom, don’t eat it,” Dr Lester said.