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Picker warns of poisonous mushroom risk

Rochester's Brian Haimes has urged people picking wild mushrooms to know how to tell edible varieties from the deadly death cap fungus.

ELAINE COONEY May 7, 2014 3:10am

Rochester resident Brian Haimes gives a warning about edible-looking mushrooms.


Rochester resident Brian Haimes got a big surprise when he went to cook his lunch last week.

The mushrooms that appeared to be edible field mushrooms turned out to be poisonous.

Mr Haimes is a seasoned mushroom picker and was convinced the mushrooms he picked from the nature strip on Mackay St were edible and was looking forward to frying them for lunch.

He said they had the hallmarks of edible mushrooms: brown gills, white flesh and a fresh smell.

Mr Haimes said as soon as he began cooking the mushrooms he got a chemical smell and knew they were poisonous.

He said that was usually how he detected the difference or he would look for pink or yellow flesh when the skin was scratched.

Mr Haimes’ scare came at the same time Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Michael Ackland issued a warning about the dangers of eating wild mushrooms.

‘‘People should avoid gathering wild mushrooms in rural Victoria and from their own gardens because of the risk of collecting poisonous varieties which may appear very similar to edible varieties,’’ he said.

Dr Ackland identified the dangers of two of the state’s most dangerous varieties, the death cap fungus, Amanita phalloides and the yellow staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus.

The warning coincided with the arrival of the mushrooming season, spawned when rain encourages growth of the fungi in the still-warm earth.

‘‘Poisonings can occur when people gathering wild mushrooms inadvertently include toxic species,’’ Dr Ackland said.

Dr Tom May, mycologist (fungus biologist) at the Royal Botanic Gardens, said the death cap is widespread across Melbourne in public and private gardens and also grew in regional areas.

‘‘The death cap can appear throughout the year, but it is most common a week or two after good rains in autumn, so we could expect a bumper crop about now,’’ he said.

‘‘The death cap is extremely toxic and responsible for 90 per cent of all mushroom poisoning deaths.

‘‘Death can follow within 48 hours.

‘‘The symptoms of poisoning may take 10-16 hours to appear after eating and will most likely be stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea.

‘‘Anyone who becomes ill after eating mushrooms should seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom for identification.’’

Dr Ackland said the common yellow staining mushroom turned yellow when the cap or stem was bruised by a thumbnail.

He said the best place to obtain mushrooms was from a commercial retail food outlet.


In the past fortnight four people from Canberra were poisoned in two incidents after eating death cap mushrooms.

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