Watch out for wild mushrooms

16 May 2022

This is an SA Health Media release

As the wet weather sets in across much of the state, South Australians heading outdoors are reminded not to pick and eat wild mushrooms.

The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Scientific Services Branch Director, Dr David Simon, said while some wild mushrooms might look tempting and perfectly safe, ingesting them can cause serious illness or even death.

“Symptoms of mushroom poisoning include violent stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which can take several hours to appear and last up to three days,” Dr Simon said.

“Poisoning from several varieties including the death-cap mushroom can have delayed onset of symptoms (up to 24 hours) and cause life-threatening liver damage.

“The risks are high for people foraging in the bush, but the danger doesn’t stop at your front gate, and mushrooms that pop up in lawns and garden beds enriched with mulch, compost and straw can be just as unsafe.

“Mushrooms commonly grow and thrive in wet weather conditions, and we usually see a surge in calls made by South Australians to the Poisons Information Centre coinciding with this time of year. This year the mushroom season started quite early and death cap mushrooms have been spotted since early January.

“Each year, around two-thirds of calls made to the hotline about mushroom poisonings involve children less than five years-of-age.

Senior Botanist-Mycologist for the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia, Dr Teresa Lebel, said recent rains have triggered fruiting of several garden and mulch growing varieties, typical at the beginning of the wetter seasons.

“This is why it will be especially important this year to keep an eye on children and pets outside, as mushrooms are easily in reach and can look interesting and attractive to eat,” Dr Lebel said.

“People should only eat mushrooms purchased from a reliable greengrocer or supermarket, as there is no simple way to tell if a mushroom is safe to eat or not, and even experts can have difficulty identifying certain species from each other.

“Even if a mushroom looks exactly like one you would pick up off a supermarket shelf or like other edible mushrooms people are familiar with from overseas, the best advice is not to eat them.

“One major problem is that species such as the death cap can be easily mistaken for the Stubble Rosegill Volvopluteus gloiocephalus, since the latter species is very similar to the Paddy Straw Mushroom Volvariella volvacea, a delicacy in Asian cuisine.

“In addition to the death cap, there are other wild mushrooms in Australian gardens, parks and bushland that have caused fatalities or can make you seriously ill, including species of Cortinarius, Galerina, and Lepiota, sometimes mistaken for field mushrooms or other non-toxic species. Or the ghost mushroom which is commonly mistaken for oyster mushrooms.”

If you suspect you or someone you know has eaten a wild mushroom, do not wait for symptoms to appear. Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for advice and always call triple zero (000) in an emergency.

If you suspect your pet has eaten wild mushrooms, seek veterinary attention immediately.


Watch out for wild mushrooms
Watch out for wild mushrooms

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