Early fruiting of death cap mushrooms in Greater Victoria

Victoria - Extremely toxic death cap mushrooms (Amanita phalloides) have been observed growing in Greater Victoria.  Island Health warns these mushrooms can make you sick or kill you if ingested.

Death cap mushrooms usually fruit in the fall, however intensive lawn watering may cause the mushrooms to grow earlier. Last week, death cap mushrooms were observed growing in the Uplands and Cedar Hill areas by the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society. 

This species of mushroom is not native to Canada.  It typically grows in cities under various species of imported trees such as beech, hornbeam, chestnut, English oak, and others but has been recently observed growing with native Garry Oak trees.  In 2016, a Victoria toddler died after ingesting one of these mushrooms.

Island Health’s Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer says: “Poisonous mushrooms such as the death cap can be found in both urban and rural areas.”

Dr. Stanwick adds, “We are concerned about people with limited knowledge of poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms; the differences can be subtle and even microscopic in some cases. Picking wild mushrooms should be left to people with significant expertise.”

Tips to stay safer while foraging for mushrooms:

• If you are uncertain or unsure – do not eat wild mushrooms.
• Do not pick wild mushrooms unless you are knowledgeable about local varieties of mushrooms or are foraging with a person who can accurately identify them.
• If you are new to British Columbia, mushrooms may look familiar to you but are not likely to be the same.
• Death cap mushrooms can be confused some edible mushrooms, such as puffballs and paddy-straw mushrooms.
• If you suspect you’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom - go to your nearest hospital, call the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or call 911. Keep a sample of the mushroom for testing.


Facts about death cap mushrooms:

• Death cap mushrooms are especially dangerous to toddlers and pets.
• Illness after eating death cap mushrooms is very serious: up to 30% of people who eat a death cap will die.  Liver transplants are an often necessary life-saving procedure. Early treatment in hospital is essential.
• Gastrointestinal distress (nausea/vomiting) begins about 8 to 12 hours after ingestion.  After up to 24 hours have passed, symptoms seem to disappear and people can feel fine for up to 72 hours.  However, liver and kidney damage symptoms start 3 to 6 days after mushrooms are eaten.
• If you see death cap mushrooms, wear rubber gloves when removing them, wash your hands thoroughly, package them up with your regular garbage —do not compost or use the food recycle garbage bin — and remember to remove them before mowing the lawn to avoid local spread. 
• Unless necessary avoid lawn watering to conserve water and to suppress early fruiting of death caps.

A poster with more information about the death cap mushroom and what to look for is available here.

If you observe a death cap mushroom, you can report it through the invasive species working group https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hra/invasive-species/reportInvasives.htm or on the BC invasive species app on your phone iPhone and iPad or Android. 

The BC Centre for Disease Control and Poison Control Centre chair a working group on death cap mushrooms to help inform cities, municipalities, health authorities and the public about the risks.  More information about death caps can be found at their web-site http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/food-your-health/fruits-vegetables-grains/wild-mushrooms 

Media Inquiries:

Meribeth Burton
Island Health Media Relations