Shroomin' With Sense

With the onset of fall's first rains, wild mushrooms fruit into season. But so does a far less fantastic phenomenon: illness or death from consuming mushrooms.

Poke about the woodlands in the Bay Area after a fall rain, and you're bound to eventually find a mouthwatering mushroom. But unlike the portabella, oyster, and button shrooms that you can pick up from Safeway and pop on a pizza, some of the wild species that grow in the area can cause grave injury if consumed.

The three most common offenders in the Bay Area are Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), Destroying Angel (Amanita ocreata), and Deadly Galerina (Galerina autumnalis), all of which have caused fatalities. While the former two can be mistaken for edible amanitas and accidentally, though innocently, consumed, the latter mimics the "magic mushrooms" containing the hallucinogen psilocibin that some seek out for psychedelic trips.

The Mycological Society of San Francisco stresses that it's critical to know the local mushrooms of any area before consuming them, as harmless species in one region may look identical to deadly toxic species from another.

Before eating wild mushrooms
the Mycological Society of San Francisco Recommends:

*Learn how to use field guides (a great guide for beginners is David Aurora's All That the Rain Promises, and More)
*Know the local mushrooms. "Collect many before eating any!"
*Join a local mycological society

For more fungus facts visit the MSSF website at www.mssf.org

Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)
Photo: Dr. Robert Thomas and Margaret Orr, CAS Special Collections
Deadly Galerina (Galerina autumnalis)
Photo: Dr. Robert Thomas and Margaret Orr, CAS Special Collections