Caution, some mushrooms can kill you

You can admire it, ignore it or pull it up and toss it out, but unless you are experienced, don’t consume that mushroom growing in your yard no matter how yummy it looks.

Five Rivers MetroParks Naturalist Douglas Horvath said accidentally eating a poisonous wild mushroom can have dire consequences.

“I would never recommend that anyone eat a (wild) mushroom,” he said. (The result could be) anything from being ill to being dead.”

Statistics related to the frequency of mushroom poisonings are hard to come by, according to the The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

While the federal agency says the poisoning rate seems to be very low, the potential exists for grave problems.

There are likely to be more poisonings as people become more adventurous in the way they collect and consume mushrooms found in urban lawns and deep wood, the CDC says.

Symptoms of mushroom poisoning can include everything from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal cramps to convulsions, coma, and/or other neurological problems. Children are particularly susceptible to some varieties of fungi.

Horvath said mushrooms — edible ones and those carrying toxins harmful to humans — thrive in spring and fall due to the moisture that comes with the seasons.

With the recent rainy weather, area residents may have noticed mushroom caps crop up in their yards the last few days.

“That helps with the spores,” Horvath said of the rain. “The spores coming out and finding the perfect condition to grow.”

Not all wild mushrooms are harmful. Horvath said some are edible.

Successful mushroom hunters often learn the skill from family members or after much study.

Horvath, for example, loves basketball sized calvatia gigantea mushrooms which are commonly known as the giant puffballs. He finds them on his family’s property.

“They are very tasty if you cook them up with butter,” Horvath said.

That variety gets paper thin as it ages. If you kick one it will send off a cloud of spores.

Horvath said many safe wild mushrooms look like those that carry toxins. It is too tricky for a novice to know the difference, he said. A test can be conducted to determine if a mushroom is safe, but Horvath said that is an advanced skill.

He urged that care be taken around mushroom, but said there is likely no reason to disturb them.

“You can admire them, but you don’t have to touch them. Some of the wildlife might use them even though humans don’t,” Horvath said.

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