by Sara 

Magnolia mushroom- look but don?t touch


MV reader Gail sent us this gorgeous pic and warning this morning
This mushroom is one of two next to a tree in the parking strip along 31st Avenue near the Village. It is about 8 or 9 inches across and stunning, but I do think it’s important to remind people that Amanita muscaria are VERY poisonous and should certainly not be eaten or even touched.

Thanks Gail!

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  1. Thanks, BenJammin, for providing that link.

    I came here from the Seattle Times site (I’m currently in Cleveland, but from Seattle and visit a couple of times a year). I also have fairly decent training as a mycologist – both amateur and academic training, spent time as an IDer for the Puget Sound Mycological Society and spent time in Dr. Amirati’s lab at the UW campus. So, when I see someone talking about mushrooms, I just can’t help but look.

    The short version: nothing is going to happen if you touch this mushroom. I wouldn’t recommend eating it, more on that below. I’m kind of befuddled that the mushroom would be identified correctly, and yet that such a misleading warning would be given. It’s not like there aren’t local resources available if you have any questions. (Again, let me recommend PSMS and Dr. Amirati at the UW.)

    Yes, this mushroom is toxic – mostly, it will make you throw up if you eat very much of it. Deaths have been attributed to this mushroom, but not within living memory. You might notice the wikipedia article claims fatal dose to be around 15 caps – keep in mind that the caps are about the side of salad plates. And, again, toxicity varies a lot by region.

    This is a pretty darned anthropologically significant mushroom, owing for the most part to its psychoactive properties. Mind you, it never sounded like much fun to me – the Wasson’s line about an unusually high proportion of trippers mistaking themselves for Christ always stuck in my head. And one would suspect that the vomitting would rather cut into the experience. (And in the pacific northwest, which is an environment rich in psilocybes, I’m really not sure why anyone would bother. Though I am staid and boring and will stick to the tasty edibles the region offers in even great numbers.)

    But it’s unlikely to kill you – at the very least, you’d have to work at it very, very hard, and even then I don’t know if our local mushrooms are nearly toxic enough. Nothing is going to happen to you if you touch it. I have – and made spore prints and gill sections from it. Even the deadly amanitas, particularly Amanita phalloides and virosa, will not harm you if you simply touch them. (And between them they are responsible for well over 90% of fatal mushroom poisonings.)

    1. I disagree that they are not that dangerous and it’s not a regional thing that varies potency, but (unfortunately) a mushroom to mushroom inconsistency that makes them all the more dangerous. Yes, touching them won’t hurt you…as long as you don’t then put your hands in your mouth – which is why you need to keep children away from them…

      Amirati is somewhat of an a-hole…he refuses to even look at a psilocybin let alone attempt to identify it and I’m sure he’d run you out if you came in with Amanitas… “I’m not my “predecessor” he always used to say when i brought in interesting psychoactive mushrooms… Stuntz was really cool however about identifying anything and taking time to give me mini spore lectures (when I was 15…)

      1. If you’re going to make assertions about its edibility, perhaps you should cite your sources. It’s not really a matter of opinion.

        And to set a good example, here: Yeah – people say all kinds of things. But it’s not like you can’t test it. If anything, I was lowballing it for this forum. I know people who parboil it and eat it, to no hallucinogenic effect nor intestinal distress, and apparently find it quite tasty. Much of the reason I haven’t tried is that a I have trouble imagining any mushroom that has been parboiled still being particularly tasty.

        As for Dr. Amirati… he has been a teacher, mentor and friend to me, so I can’t say my experience much matches yours. I did bring him psilocybes more than once – but by that time he knew I was interested in mushrooms much more generally, had done all the basic ID work, and was stuck on issues that had needed microscopic examination. (This is before I was trained in microscopic ID, and before I had my own scope. Though when I was doing research at the UW, later, I’d often stop by his lab because he has an especially good scope and all the reagents.) And I’ve ID’d many different Amanitas in his lab. Many people have. I suspect he doesn’t have a lot of patience with people who want to consume the mushrooms, but haven’t bothered to learn the identification skills.

        Everyone makes their own call with providing IDs on psilocybes, and there are certainly legal issues. I will usually ID them for people, which I see as a matter of harm reduction – because other than immigrants who mistake a local toxic species for a tasty edible from home, the most common cause of mushroom poisonings is folks wanting to get high. (It really amazes me that we don’t have more poisonings, considering the people who are otherwise willing to just shove random shrooms in their mouths. Seriously? Mushroom identification isn’t hard to learn. If you’re interested, take one of the classes PSMS offers.) But if I had people frequently showing up on my doorstep wanting me to stop my work and consult for free on their possible hallucinogens? I’d get pretty sick of it too. Some people probably more quickly than others.

  2. Fantastic. First interesting story on the site for weeks. Of course the day to day news stuff is helpful to people, but bring on the informational thought-provoking things too. I want to read the professionals duke it out on the toxicity of this one.

    1. Seriously, there isn’t that much debate within the mycological community. It’s mostly outside that you see people who think either mushrooms should all be considered poisonous (really, I spent a long time explaining why it’s not appropriate to say that morels are poisonous when I worked at an educational software company) or that all hallucinogenic mushrooms are evil and people should be scared away from them. (You do find some of that among mycologists, but usually not to the point of distorting the data.)

      The change in the toxicity in terms of regional distribution is interesting… and I don’t know if anyone has done a really solid survey of this. (Though there are some interesting things, such as: ) Which is the sad thing about mycology – it’s a fairly small and underfunded discipline. There may be more times of fungus than plants, but we know far, far less about them

      (Of course, I’ve gone off to be a neurobiologist. Perhaps eventually I’ll work in mycology again.)

  3. We had a similar mushroom in our yard recently. The largest mushroom we have ever had. It stood like a statue in the lawn and we admired it for weeks. I almost named it. It finally dried up and collapsed.

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