Poisonous Mushrooms

Caution: Eating wild mushrooms can kill you!

Know these three

If you collect mushrooms for the table, you should become familiar with the three most dangerous groups of fungi.

Mushrooms in these groups cause virtually all the fatal mushroom poisonings in the United States, with amanitas alone accounting for 90 percent of mushroom-related deaths.

Learning how to correctly identify any mushroom, and sticking to the rule to never eat any mushroom unless you’re 100 percent sure of its identification can keep you safe.

Things to know about mushroom poisoning

  • Symptoms of mushroom poisoning can be delayed for up to 12 hours, sometimes longer.
  • Symptoms of some poisonous mushrooms can seem to go away, but the toxin will remain in your system. Days later, you can get very sick. When trying a new mushroom, always keep a raw sample in the refrigerator.
  • Casual handling of poisonous mushrooms won’t hurt you (for instance if you’re collecting a specimen to examine later), but you can contaminate other mushrooms by carrying them in the same container. Keep different species wrapped separately in your basket or container.
  • Even known, popular edibles can cause an allergic reaction or sensitivity in some people, and there’s no way to know in advance. Eat a small amount (just two or three bites) of the cooked mushroom the first time you try it.
  • A significant number of mushroom poisonings occur when visitors or immigrants accidentally eat poisonous mushrooms that look similar to edible ones in their home regions or countries. Use local references to identify local species!
  • Learn mushrooms’ Latin names — common names can be confusing. In an emergency, accuracy matters. (There are at least six common names for Hericium erinaceus, a very good edible: lion's mane, bearded tooth, hedgehog, satyr's beard, bear’s paw, and pompom.)
  • There are no “antidotes” for mushroom poisoning. Hospitals can only try to treat the damage from the toxins.
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