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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:44 am   #1
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Mushroom Hunting Basics for Safety

I took this text from wikipedia as free information available for distribution.

I thought it was a good primer for this site.

view copyright license here: _Documentation_License

Copyright (c) 2006 R. Bartlett.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
Free Documentation License".

Had to do that stuff. Anyhow, here's the deal:

A variety of safety rules for mushroom hunting exist. Listed here are some of the most common in order of importance, from greatest to least:
  • 1. Never consume a mushroom for which a positive identification to species has not been made (see mushroom poisoning).
  • 2. Never try to convince anyone else to eat a mushroom that you have identified.
  • 3. Simplistic rules-of thumb such as: "it's edible if it discolors when cut", or "if it doesn't stain a silver spoon" are often dangerously inaccurate. Species identification is a must.
  • 4. An identification should be made with no less than size, color, gill connectivity, environment, a cross section, bruising color, odor, and a spore print.
  • 5. In no case should you eat a mushroom when something about the mushroom contradicts available information about what one suspects the mushroom is.
  • 6. Always attempt to use multiple sources for identification.
  • 7. Be able to tell what distinguishes this mushroom from its closest sister species
  • 8. Learn what the death cap, destroying angel, Galerina species, small Lepiota species and the deadly webcap and some of its relatives look like in all stages of their development; those kinds cause the majority of deadly poisonings. Other species can make you severely ill but do not often kill.
  • 9. Until you can be considered an expert, stay away from all difficult to identify groups, such as amanita, cortinarius, and LBMs (little brown mushrooms).
  • 10. Always identify each specimen during preparation. Deaths due to an inexperienced collector gathering a button-stage amanita along with edible mushrooms have occurred, or when a group of collectors unwisely combines their mushrooms.
  • 11. Novices should start with more easily identifiable and less dangerous groups, such as boletes and bracket fungi, completely avoiding standard agarics.
  • 12. Be careful to use information relevant to your area. Some mushrooms that are safe in Europe, for example, have deadly lookalikes in North America.
  • 13. Only consume a small amount of the mushroom the first time. Certain types of popular mushrooms, such as sulphur shelf, cause an allergic reaction in about half of the people who eat them. Some species, such as Paxillus involutus, can be eaten several times without ill effect and then cause severe distress when consumed again. Your first taste should be just a taste (to see if you actually care for it), and your second should be about a teaspoon full. Space tastings far apart - poisoning from the highly deadly destroying angel doesn't even produce symptoms until ten hours after consumption and can take over a week to kill its victim. You should never "taste" an unidentified mushroom; mushrooms such as the deadly webcap, commonly found throughout Europe, are so poisonous that even putting a small piece in the mouth and spitting it out can cause a severe poisoning.
  • 14. Do not mix known edibles with other species while gathering. Keep them in separate containers. A single poisonous mushroom can poison a whole basket, if this occurs, throw everything.
  • 15. Do not allow young children to gather mushrooms for consumption. If they hunt with you, keep any mushrooms they find separate and identify them yourself. As always, if in doubt, throw it out.
  • 16. Be aware of pollution; mushrooms concentrate heavily pollutants like heavy metals or radioactive isotopes. More specifically, radioactive fallout spreads unevenly and can be very concentrated in certain areas, this even at great distances from the source of the polution.
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:46 am   #2
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Hunting mushrooms is a fascinating pastime, requiring sharp eyes and a keen mind. There are many thousands of species, all unique, each beautiful in its own way. It is usual for a particular fungus to produce a visible fruiting body only under a precise combination of conditions, including geographic location, elevation, temperature, humidity, light level, and surrounding flora, so you may only see a particular species very rarely -- similar to bird-watching. Unlike bird-watching, however, when you find a choice edible you can gather it and make dinner with it, knowing that its mycelium lives on and will produce another crop next season. Gathering wild mushrooms is similar to berry-picking in this way.

If at all feasible, your first few forays into the forest should be with a knowledgeable and experienced mushroom hunter. Check for a mycological society in your area; while its members may not be generous with information about their favorite spots, they commonly offer classes and field trips with trained mycologists on hand who can identify the fungi you collect. There is no substitute for examining many different types of fungi and observing their differences, in order to develop your own skills in identification. Also, acquire a mushroom identification book with color pictures and a key to identifying specific species, and take it with you to the field.

When collecting a species for identification, gather more than one specimen and take the entire fruiting body, including the base and even some of the surrounding material or substrate. This will enhance your ability to make a positive identification. Some things to note: shape, color, size, odor, presence and layout of gills or tubes under the cap; differences between immature vs. mature specimens, surface features, interior features when cut, and changes in response to cutting or bruising. Some species can only be positively identified with a spore print, chemical tests, and/or microscopic examination of the spores.

Learn to recognize one or a few species that are common in your area, and be absolutely certain of your identification. The first few times you collect a species that is new to you, resist the urge to collect and eat it in quantity. Instead, gather a few representative specimens, carry out as many field tests as possible (such as dividing lengthwise with a knife to observe interior features and color changes), then preserve everything carefully in a separate paper bag or aluminum foil wrap. Repeated examination will help you mentally categorize the identifiable features and help you distinguish it again in the future.

When to hunt: just after a period of rain in the spring or fall is usually best, but mushrooms can be found almost any time in some locations. Try to go when the light is good, because mushrooms tend to blend with their surroundings and are usually hard to spot.

Where to hunt: almost anywhere, but avoid private property and places where chemicals are used to control plants and pests, or where pollution is evident. Wilderness trails are far better than golf courses, private yards, and busy roadsides.

What to do:

* Know what species are protected. In many countries several (or even most) species of wild mushrooms are protected and removing them a criminal offense. People end up with hefty fines and/or jailtime every year because of mushroom poaching.
* Take a sturdy knife.
* Take a paper bag or wicker basket that will allow air to circulate; plastic bags tend to make mushrooms soggy and warm, which is never good for them. You may get them home only to find that you have to throw most of them away.
* Some interesting and edible species grow on trees, but identifying them is a completely separate process from identifying ground mushrooms. If you know what to look for, keep your eyes out for mushrooms both on the ground and on trees and logs.
* Bring your collection home and process as soon as possible. You will find organisms such as fly larvae, slugs, etc. fairly often in some climates. Section the mushrooms and throw out any parts containing undesirable denizens before you poach/fry/dry/freeze the rest. If you wait a day before doing this, you may find your entire collection deteriorated and useless.

Additionally, some other things that you should generally keep in mind:

1. Try to harvest only young mushrooms (but not immature ones!). Older mushrooms are generally associated with an increase in allergic reactions, worse taste, worse texture, and increased incidence of insect infestations. Immature mushrooms can resemble edible puffballs while actually being deadly Amanita mushrooms in a stage before the universal veil ruptures.
2. If you find a single mushroom, take a closer look around. Where there is one there is probably another. If you find two, there are probably five.
3. If you want a more "mushroomy" taste, dry mushrooms before use. This is also the best long-term storage option for most mushrooms.
4. Some mushrooms must be used quickly after harvest, such as the inky cap which rapidly decomposes into a soggy mess even under the most favorable conditions.
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:48 am   #3
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Poisonous mushrooms commonly confused for edible ones

Any good mushroom guidebook will call attention to similarities between species, especially if an edible species is similar to or commonly confused with one that is potentially harmful.


1. False chanterelles can look like real chanterelles to the inexperienced eye. The latter do not have sharp gills, but rather blunt veins on the underside.
2. True morels are distinguished from false morels (Gyromitra esculenta and Verpa bohemica). The impostors have caps attached at the top of the stalk, while true morels have a honeycombed cap structure attached along the stalk.
3. Conocybe filaris, and some Galerina species can look like, and grow next to Psilocybe.

"Little brown mushrooms"

A "little brown mushroom" or LBM refers to any of a large number of small, dull-colored agaric species, with few macromorphological characters that readily distinguish one species from another. As a result, LBMs are typically difficult to impossible for mushroom hunters to identify. Experienced mushroomers may discern more subtle identifying traits that will help narrow the mushroom down to a particular genus or group of species, but exact identification of LBMs often requires close examination of microscopic characteristics plus a certain degree of familiarity or specialization in that particular group.
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:50 am   #4
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Mushroom poisoning

Mushroom poisoning refers to symptoms that can vary from slight gastrointestinal discomfort to death resulting from ingestion of toxic substances present in a mushroom. The toxins present are metabolic byproducts produced by the fungus. Typically, mushroom poisoning is the result of a gatherer of wild mushrooms mistakenly identifying a toxic mushroom as a non-toxic or edible species. Because some edible and poisonous fungi have very similar appearances, mistakes are usually the result of misidentification based on superficial characteristics. Even very experienced wild mushroom gatherers are sometimes poisoned, despite being well aware of the risks.
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:51 am   #5
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No golden rules for safety

There is much folklore providing misleading tips on defining features of poisonous mushrooms, such as:

* Having bright flashy colours. (False: some very toxic species are pure white, such as the destroying angel).
* Lack of snail or insect infestation. (False: while a fungus may be harmless to invertebrates, it could be toxic to humans. The death cap for instance is often perforated by insect larvae).
* Becomes black when touched by silverware or an onion. (False: most mushrooms tend to darken as they wither).
* Poisonous mushrooms smell and taste horrible. (False: some poisonous mushrooms actually taste delicious, according to victims, and one brave person reportedly once cooked a whole meal with the destroying angel mushroom, tasting pieces, whereafter spitting them out; he confirmed that it tasted rather good).
* Any mushroom becomes safe if cooked enough. (False: the chemical structure of some toxins is very stable, even at high temperature).

In reality, there are no simple guidelines to identify poisonous mushrooms. The only completely foolproof rule for preventing mushroom poisoning is of course abstinence — it's better to be safe than sorry. A common rule followed by mushroom hunters is "when in doubt, throw it out". In general, being experienced, having both taxonomic and distributional knowledge, and not taking chances is the only way of minimizing the obvious risk. Actually, even this could be insufficient as mushrooms are sometimes contaminated by concentrating pollutants, like heavy metals and radiation . Some academic mycologists in fact do not eat wild mushrooms, despite their professional knowledge, and very knowledgeable collectors are sometimes poisoned.

Persons who gather wild mushrooms should follow some practical guidelines (see mushroom hunting). In particular, they should not:

* eat any mushroom they cannot positively identify;
* allow small children to gather mushrooms for consumption;
* mix known edibles with questionable species while gathering, since parts may break off and intermix. A single poisonous mushroom can poison an entire basket.

In addition:

* all wild mushrooms must be thoroughly cooked before eating;
* alcohol consumption should be limited when eating previously untried wild mushrooms since some species, most notably ink caps (Coprinus) can cause an adverse reaction (good mushroom books document this reaction for the species involved, and remember that you must always know what species you are eating -- but caution is still advised for any mushroom species tried for the first time);
* when anyone tries a species that he or she has not eaten previously, portions should be kept small: no more than 150 grams per person at one sitting.

An experienced mycologist or mushroom picker will know which mushrooms have dangerous look-a-likes that might cause confusion resulting in an accidental poisoning. In Europe, especially in forested regions, many people have local knowledge of one or two fungi that have been picked and eaten for generations and used in the regional cuisine. In Italy and France, for instance, several species of porcini (Italian name; cèpe in French) have been picked and enjoyed at least since Roman times. These are members of the genus Boletus, which can be identified in part by the fact that they have pores rather than gills, species for which few common lethal look-alikes exist. In some regions in Europe, mushrooms are not eaten at all; in other regions, such as Finland, Scandinavia and Russia, which traditionally have suffered from food shortage in winters, strong local knowledge on edible mushrooms exist and mushrooms form a remarkable part of cuisine. Yet many mushroom enthusiasts limit their pickings only on easily recognizable mushrooms, such as chanterels and boletes, and leave agarics unpicked. False morel is often called the "fugu of the Finnish cuisine", and not without reason; it is deadly poisonous when raw, but delicious if properly prepared.

As mentioned, however, specimens looking similar to known edibles at home may be deadly in another place and should not be collected without good local knowledge of the biota. For instance, the tasty Cantharellus is enjoyed by many people in Scandinavia where no risk of confusing this mushroom with deadly species exists. However, in North America, this ground-dwelling mushroom has been known to be mistaken for the wood-decaying Jack O' Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus illudens), which may indeed seem to grow from the ground if there is buried wood present. Note also recent reports of confusion between Volvariella speciosa, a popular edible species in Asia, and Amanita phalloides, a deadly poisonous species in North America.

Another common problem derives from the fact that developing (newly formed) destroying angel mushrooms very much resemble the well-known champignon, or button mushroom (the mushroom widely sold in markets and used on pizzas). Similarities between these species lead to a few deaths every year in Scandinavia alone.

Recommendations that one should follow:

* Know the characteristics (shape, color, growing terrain, etc.) of all the toxic mushrooms growing in the area. In Europe and North America, these include the deadly Amanita phalloides and Amanita virosa, as well as the non-lethal Amanita pantherina and Amanita muscaria; but this list is not exhaustive, and any unknown mushroom must be treated as dangerous.
* Stick to collecting mushroom species you know and that have no risk of being confused with toxic species.

Poisoning by Amanita phalloides (the death cap) is characterised by a delay of between 6 and 24 hours from the time of ingestion to the onset of symptoms. During this time, the cells of the kidneys and liver are attacked. There is no antidote for poisoning by A. phalloides, and mortality is between 50 and 90 percent.
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:52 am   #6
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Serious symptoms do not always occur immediately after eating; often not until the toxin attacks the kidney, from minutes to hours later. In rare cases, symptoms leading to death may not appear for days after eating a poisonous mushroom. Symptoms typically include:

* Lethargy
* Headache
* Dizziness
* Cold sweat
* Vomiting
* Sharp abdominal pains
* Jaundice
* Severe diarrhea

If treated promptly, death can usually be avoided. Otherwise, with some toxins, death could result within a week or a few days, if the species ingested is a potent one
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 12:53 am   #7
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Poisonous species

Three of the most lethal mushrooms belong to the genus Amanita: the death cap (A. phalloides) and destroying angels (A. virosa, and A. verna); and two are from the genus Cortinarius: the deadly webcap (C. rubellus), and the fool's webcap (C. orellanus). These species cause the greatest number of fatalities. The principal toxins are alpha-amanitin in the genus Amanita and orellanine in the genus Cortinarius.

The following species may cause great discomfort, but are less often lethal.

* Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) – poisonings rare, possibly because its unique and obvious appearance make it easily identifiable; however, its long history of use as an entheogen and new reports suggesting it is less toxic than once thought may suggest otherwise.
* Amanita pantherina (panther mushroom) – Contains similar toxins as A. muscaria, but in higher quantities; first signs of distress occur after 8 to 12 hours; 80–85% of victims survive.
* Amanita regalis – symptoms generally mild
* Entoloma spp. – highly poisonous, such as livid Entoloma (Entoloma sinuatum), Entoloma rhodopolium, and Entoloma nidorosum. First symptoms appear after 20 minutes to 4 hours.
* Galerina – Some species contain alpha-amanitin (deadly poisonous)
* Many Inocybe spp. – Inocybe fastigiata, Inocybe geophylla, and Inocybe patouillardii
* Some white Clitocybe – First symptoms after 15 to 20 minutes
* Tiger Tricholoma – no lasting effect after 2 to 6 hours of great pain.
* Sulfur tuft – poisoning may be serious
* Omphalotus olearius – mild
* False morel (Gyromitra esculenta) – may not affect some people at all. Deadly poisonous when raw; harmless and delicious if correctly prepared.
* Brown roll-rim – once thought edible, but now found to be destructive of red blood cells with regular or long-term consumption.
* Devil's Boletus (Boletus satanas)
* Purple Boletus (B. rhodoxanthus)
* Coprinus atramentarius
* Conocybe filaris contains amatoxins, sometimes thought to be a Psilocybe.
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