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United States Science News

The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Discovery News reports that the death cap mushroom is now an invasive species on every continent except Antarctica. It is spreading along the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and appears to be moving south into Mexico. 'When someone eats Amanita phalloides, she typically won't experience symptoms for at least six and sometimes as many as 24 hours,' says Cat Adams. 'Eventually she'll suffer from abdominal cramps, vomiting, and severely dehydrating diarrhea. This delay means her symptoms might not be associated with mushrooms, and she may be diagnosed with a more benign illness like stomach flu. To make matters worse, if the patient is somewhat hydrated, her symptoms may lessen and she will enter the so-called honeymoon phase.' Without proper, prompt treatment, the victim can experience rapid organ failure, coma, and death. But good news is on the way. S. Todd Mitchell of Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California has treated more than 60 patients with a drug derived from milk thistle. The patients who have started the drug on time (within 96 hours of ingesting the mushroom) and who have still had kidney function intact have all survived. 'When administered intravenously, the compound sits on and blocks the receptors that bring amatoxin into the liver, thus corralling the amatoxins into the blood stream so the kidneys can expel them faster,' says Adams. Still, Mitchell cautions against the 'regular look"'of deadly mushrooms. 'They smell very good and when they're cooked, many patients have described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'"
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The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US

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  • . 'They smell very good and when they're cooked, many patients have described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'"

    At least there is no chance in hell anyone would confuse them with Magic Mushrooms then ....

    • Well done.

      Why would you attempt to self-identify mushrooms? There is an deadly impostor for even Psilocybe (conocybe).

  • That's why they say, if it tastes good spit it out! [youtube.com]

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      An interesting evolutionary point, did the death cap evolve as toxic because it was so tasty, that only the toxic variety survived as the rest where eaten. In commercial terms would the death cap be an ideal mushroom to grow and selectively breed to eliminate the toxicity, being one of the tastiest varieties.

      • by dargaud (518470)
        A close family member to the phaloides is the amanita cesarea, which is considered one of the best mushrooms ever. Unfortunately I've never found any.
    • This guy ate several and said they were bland. [cornell.edu] "Gee, I donâ(TM)t think Iâ(TM)ll ever pick and eat these again," he said. He was right!
  • by Ashenkase (2008188) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:45PM (#46223865)
    Looks like the Killer Bees brought it with them from Mexico.
  • That's not what the article says at all.
  • Why the hype? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jo7hs2 (884069) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:48PM (#46223899) Homepage
    Is this hype because it is finding its way into the food supply in stores either via getting into commercial operations accidentally or being picked and sold as something else by wild collectors, or is it just journalistic pomp? Because, as somebody who regularly photographs fungi while out photographing native orchids, I'm willing to bet only a very small percentage of the population would ever even consider eating a wild mushroom. Even 90+ percent of my hiking buddies, all of them reasonably good at plant and fungus IDs, would never consider taking that risk unless it was something very expensive to just buy, like morels.
    • Re:Why the hype? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by magarity (164372) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:52PM (#46223971)

      My in-laws from China are always wanting to pick mushrooms out of the yard to eat. It's amazing what living through the Cultural Revolution will do to make you save every penny and eat anything you can find not nailed down.

      • by jo7hs2 (884069)
        True. I have a Chinese friend whose parents collect napkins. Thousands and thousands of napkins. They are also of that age group. I suspect they fear running out of napkins. Many of my older Polish family members, especially those born in Poland between say, 1938-1989, displayed similar behavior...presumably for similar albeit somewhat less severe reasons.
        • by jo7hs2 (884069)
          The long age group was something of a joke, in case no students of history are around...
        • Even better. My wife 30 years of age, is the child of parents that grew up during the Cultural Revolution. Even she collects shit like plastic utensils from fast food joints and whatnot. Plastic bag, bottles, containers, etc. What I call "trash" she calls useful. While it is nice to save money and protect the environment, sometimes she goes too far. And no, it's not a hoarding disorder, but it's damn near close with a cause.

      • My in-laws from China are always wanting to pick mushrooms out of the yard to eat. It's amazing what living through the Cultural Revolution will do to make you save every penny and eat anything you can find not nailed down.

        Oh great, so we have that to look forward to, as our very own cultural revolution proceeds ...

      • by gregor-e (136142)
        It isn't necessarily about frugality. There are many easily identified mushrooms that can grow in your yard that are quite delicious. Shaggy manes, oyster mushrooms, various boletes, morels, and chanterelles are all delicious mushrooms I've found in yards and eaten. If you're so inclined, you can easily grow your own [fieldforest.net].
      • This may have little to do with the Cultural Revolution. Picking wild mushrooms plays a much larger role in some cultures.

    • by jo7hs2 (884069)
      I should clarify...I mean in most of North America. Granted, certain immigrant groups may display a greater predilection for mushroom collecting, and I know it is a bigger deal in the Pacific Northwest of the US along with in Europe, but still, in NA it isn't a HUGE pastime.
    • Re:Why the hype? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Narcocide (102829) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @08:01PM (#46224049) Homepage

      I think the issue is that though they are relatively easy to ID, they are new to the continental US and can be easily mistaken for the Straw Mushroom, which *is* edible, so people assuming this mushroom still only grows in Europe may be in for quite a nasty surprise.

      • by jo7hs2 (884069)
        Which makes sense from the standpoint of say, a website catering to those who pick mushrooms, but Slashdot? Plus, the whole thing is so full of hype that you'd think the mushrooms are throwing themselves into mouths.
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          They are, they developed a mechanizim to fling themselves at over 400 miles per hour when the fungus mat detects someone with their mouth open. They also will aim for large nostrils and eye sockets.

      • by dargaud (518470)
        Woah, you have to be blind AND very dumb to confuse those two...
    • Misinformed reckless people who want to take hallucinogen often lose their kidneys to mushroom. I know someone like this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm a Finn and most people I know pick mushrooms during the summer and fall to eat. It's very common around here. Granted, we only pick things that we know to be safe. I guess one reason is that it's very common to hike around the forests and pick berries and mushrooms here due to:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam

      I actually know of only one case in my (not immediate) family that has been poisoned by mushrooms. This was because of a French friend who was visiting in Finland and was living at one o

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        WE cant buy bullets right now, so most people are hanging around in trees with machetes waiting for trespassers.

      • It's just that so many Americans are so detached from nature and are afraid of that "you're standing on my property!" and getting peppered by bullets, that they don't enjoy nature...

        Come on, that's not at all true. Visits to national parks in the U.S. are at all time highs, as are regional parks or just any park/forest - there is a TON of open land people can and do go exploring on all across the whole of the U.S. If you have never been I don't think you understand how much open areas there are even close

      • by klui (457783)

        Wikipedia's entry says its toxicity doesn't go away after cooking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:50PM (#46223943) Journal

    So, is there such a think as Xtreme eating (like extreme sports?)

    If the people who ate them " described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'" have all survived once they took the antidote, would other people consider eating this mushroom KNOWING that they were putting their life at risk (assuming they had access to the antidote)?

    I mean is this akin to eating the "Fugu" fish (which I have!) where, for some, part of the attraction of the food is the possibility that you might die?

    Are there other foods which are (potentially?) dangerous or deadly but are so tasty that it is worth the risk?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @08:24PM (#46224233)

      Are there other foods which are (potentially?) dangerous or deadly but are so tasty that it is worth the risk?

      It isn't worth the risk. Death caps inhibit a crucial part of cell metabolism, RNA transcription. It's interesting that they don't kill themselves. People usually die of liver failure since that's where the poison ends up (the diarrhea is of course also a sign of a large number of cell deaths, but those cells are more expendable).

      Nicely tasting, absolutely deadly poisonous mushrooms with wide specificity but a large time-delay (about a week). Good for wiping out major parts of a herd. My guess is that it's due to their symbiosis with hardwood trees: gives some protection to those slow-growing trees from getting stripped of their bark by deer and other planteaters.

      A single mushroom is enough to kill a person. Even with "antidote", you will do more damage to your liver and other organs than 20 years of heavy drinking.

      You cannot compare this to Fugu since properly prepared, the meat of the fish will not cause any damage.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      So, is there such a think as Xtreme eating (like extreme sports?)

      If the people who ate them " described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten.'"

      In most of the cases, the expression would change to: "the most delicious mushrooms they'll ever eat".
      You see, a human body has only one liver.

    • I read a story about a man who ate death caps and survived. He said they were unexpectedly bland. Fugu is pretty bland, too, and expensive. I went to the cheapest place I could find, $45 per person...which of course means they had the least-skilled chef there. Eek.
    • Yeah, actually, when I saw that, it made me want to try it.

      Then I read the article, and the article sounded like the mushrooms weren't super delicious, but rather the chef who prepared it was very good at preparing food. Further, it read like a eulogy, where you only say good things about the recently deceased. Even when they died from picking their own mushrooms.

      So I'm not sure there is widespread agreement that the mushrooms are so delicious.
  • so dont eat them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @07:59PM (#46224027) Homepage

    Honestly, who is picking up random shrooms and eating them?

    • Mainly the sick and the dead.

    • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @08:28PM (#46224281) Journal

      Honestly, who is picking up random shrooms and eating them?

      "Hey dude, check this out, a mushroom"
      "I'll give you $10 to eat it"
      "Really? "*mushroom in mouth*" there, done, you owe me $10. Fuck, this tastes great, you should try one"
      "Really? give me one"

      That is how it happens.

    • Maybe it's just a sign of the hard economic times, with a third of the country on food stamps, or whatever. Folks are just looking for free things to eat . . .?

      • by kamapuaa (555446)

        It's not like picking mushrooms is a cost-efficient way to get free food. Mushrooms have few calories, you probably spend more searching for them than you actually acquire. It's that they taste better than mushrooms you get at the store, they're fresher, there's varieties you can't normally buy, and it's kind of a fun activity when you're hiking. In Europe and Japan and many other nations, hunting for mushrooms is fairly common.

        Only a very small amount of fungi is poisonous, as long as you know what you'

        • by sjames (1099)

          If you have no job and little prospect of getting one if you go job hunting (or you're saving up for a tank of gas so you can go job hunting), the value/tyime equation shifts a great deal.

          If you've been eating plain beans and rice for a while, some mushrooms might seem really attractive.

    • People desiring religious experiences, but not being able to trust them unless there are hallucinogens involved.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Most cases are people from another area that has an edible mushroom that looks the same.

  • At least once.
  • The Darwin Challenge.

    Our current contestant is at Stage 1 and has gorged herself on 1 pound of prime poisonous 'shrooms.

    Odds in Vegas are running 3 to 1 against her surviving 48hrs.

    Care to play?

    Click the link.

  • So, they get you high or what?

  • by Kevin Fishburne (1296859) <`kevinfishburne' `at' `eightvirtues.com'> on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @10:13PM (#46225097) Homepage
    "They smell very good and when they're cooked, many patients have described them as the most delicious mushrooms they've ever eaten."

    Clearly this is proof of Intelligent Design. If I were God I'd definitely place these things everywhere they'd fit just to keep my people on their toes. Nature's land mines.
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      He IS that kind of God! Putting that delicious-looking apple tree smack in the middle of his garden? You can't win against a guy like that. He's the sort of person who puts bricks under hats.
  • Scientists have just discovered that the best solution is: DON'T go eat random fucking mushrooms in the fucking woods, you idiot!
  • by durin (72931) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:54AM (#46226157)

    The Death Cap is something I learned as a child not to touch, and I teach my kids that too. It's pretty common where I live to learn which things in nature are edible and what to watch out for. I had the impression most people around the world had that kind of education "built in". Is that not the case in the US these days?

    • The Death Cap is something I learned as a child not to touch, and I teach my kids that too.

      Yes, but since it is spreading how would people have shown others to look out for it - and why would they bother when it's not supposed to be there?

      That's why the warning is a good thing, for people to be aware the Death Cap could be anywhere and so you should always look for distinguishing signs.

    • by dargaud (518470)
      When I was on the East coast of the US, people were screaming at their kids not to go near any kind of green thing: "Stop, there's poison ivy there. And rabid raccoons. And Ebola." Yes, even in their own backyards. Not even exaggerating much.
    • by sjames (1099)

      There are kids in the U.S. that have never seen the stars. They get washed out by city light pollution.

  • by Kotetsu (135021) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @01:56AM (#46226167) Homepage

    The main reason these mushrooms are eaten is that they are misidentified as some similar looking edible species. The most frequent victims for these mushrooms are immigrants that mistake them for an edible species that they would find back where they were originally from. In the US on the west coast, that most often means immigrants from eastern Asia mistaking them for Volvariella, volavacea, commonly sold in supermarkets in cans as "Paddy Straw Mushrooms".

    As far as being deadly, their lethality depends mostly on how much of them you eat. In a very general sense, if you eat some and don't seek medical treatment, your odds of dying are around 50%. With treatment (before the milk thistle extract), the survival rate was more like 90%.

    There are lots of other mushrooms that also produce the same toxins in potentially deadly quantities. The ones that produce the most poisonings are Galerinas (especially G. marginata), since they resemble some of the hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe and can grow in the same habitats, at the same time, and even side by side with them. Lepiotas and Conocybes (Pholiotinas) can also be deadly in the same way, but don't generally resemble other mushrooms that most would want to eat.

    There are lots of safe mushrooms and groups of mushrooms that are easy to identify accurately enough to eat without significant risk. Members of the genus Amanita (the ones these deadly ones belong to) don't fall into that category, unless you're a real expert. A lot of the "experts" that are referred to as such are people that can identify a few species (or maybe a few dozen species) in the woods - not somebody we should treat as a real expert. It's a bit like calling somebody who has done a "Hello World" program in a couple languages a programming expert.

    If you want to learn enough to forage for your own wild mushrooms, you should contact a local mycological society. You can meet people who can show you how to identify some of the easier, safer mushrooms in your area.

  • Discovery News reports that the death cap mushroom is now an invasive species on every continent except Antarctica.

    So if it's invasive on every continent except Antarctica, shouldn't that mean that it is native to Antarctica? Or possibly not land-based at all?

    (Hint: it's from Europe.)

  • Death cap is a common mushroom in our region (western part of Russia and Baltics). You can find it easily in every forest but amounts vary by year. Despite the fact it is well known to any interested person, there are a few lethal cases every summer involving careless mushroom pickers. A cultural note: wild mushroom picking is considered normal everyday activity here, regardless your income and social status.

  • Seems akin to the same risk / reward of scavenging for old land mines. "I know what I'm doing, trust me!"

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