The fatality of choice – How the death Cap Mushroom came into existence
As you may be aware the difference between poisonous and edible mushrooms can at times seem almost non-existent. There are several reasons for this. Firstly many types of mushroom appear as normal as possible as in they have no distinguishing markings or odours. In addition poisonous mushrooms also appear to be almost identical to similar edible species. The Death cap mushroom is one of these easy to confuse mushrooms. Even its name suggests its deadly intent if consumed. The Latin name for the Death Cap Mushroom is in fact Amanita phalloides. It is not to be confused with the Fly Agaric.
It is said of many mushrooms that they are in fact the creation of the devil. As the devil walked upon the earth, after being cast from heaven, he ate bread and was so disgusted with its taste as well as vitality. So Satan begin to spit out the bread and as it fell upon the earth up sprang Mushroom of various types. Undoubtedly the Death Cap mushroom would have been a choice favourite for the devil.
Death Cap Mushroom Image
The Myths surrounding the Death cap Mushroom – how to avoid making commonly held mistakes
It is necessary to demystify the mystery of the death cap
Many myths surround poisonous mushrooms and how to distinguish. These myths need examination in order to dispel a false way of identifying the Death Cap Mushroom
- Silver becomes tainted when in contact with a poisonous Mushroom.
FALSE - Although it is possible with other mushrooms, the Death Cap mushroom does not react to silver. To trust this method would result in the ingestion of this most highly poisonous mushrooms and potential death. In fact the chances of surviving eating Death Cap Mushroom are almost non-existent
- The Death Cap mushroom is clearly distinguished by an odious rancid sense of smell.
FALSE – The Death Cap mushroom has no smell that identifies its highly deadly nature. Nor for that matter does it have a horrible taste. For those who were lucky enough to survive consumption, they have described the taste as almost pleasant with no apparent bitterness or repulsion felt.
- Amanita phalloides has clear markings that warn people about its hazardous nature.
FALSE – The Death Cap often has a ring around the base and stem of the spore gills, but this can become detached after heavy rainfall, rendering this observational method obsolete. In addition the Death Cap mushroom has no vivid colours or identifiers that indicate its highly poisonous state (in nature other examples include Wasps/Frogs/Plants that have clear hazardous indicates - like natures warning sign of saying “Stay Away”)
- If bugs or insect are found in the mushroom then it must be safe to eat!
FALSE – The Death Cap (extremely highly poisonous to humans) has little or no apparent effect on insects. If this common myth is used as a way to identify how edible the mushroom is, then the picker will be convinced that the mushroom is safe by the presence of insects. This is a myth, if insects are found within the mushroom or even on the outside it could still be a Death Cap mushroom!
This is not a Mellow Mushroom - it is a Deathcap
The Chemical pattern that lives within the Death Cap Mushroom
How many people has the Death Cap Mushroom killed or been linked to death over the years?
The Death Cap mushroom alas has an infamous history of killing people throughout the centuries, these are said to include most recently 2 Chinese Chefs - chef Liu Jun and kitchen hand Tsou Hsian from Australia, Charles VI the Holy Roman Emperor, Johann Schobert, possibly Buddha, Tsaritsa Natalia Kirillovna Naryshkina (Russian: Наталья Кирилловна Нарышкина), and Pope Clement the 7th.
The chemical composition of the Death cap mushroom includes alpha-Amanitin and phallotoxins these chemicals affects primarily the nervous system after effectively destroying the human liver with obvious signs and symptoms of massive terminal pain and subsequent death. The effects start as soon as 2 hours or up-to 14 hours later with the onset of cramps, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
How to Identify the Death Cap Mushroom
The possible ways to identify the Death cap Mushroom include noting the gill colour underneath. Primarily Death Cap mushrooms have white gills that produce white spores. Although my advice would be to never eat mushrooms from the wild without the full consent as well as experience of a veteran mushroom hunter. The risks are simply too great to guarantee that the Mushroom is not poisonous. When hunting for mushrooms, it’s absolutely recommended that you only pick mushrooms that you’re absolutely 100% sure of as being non-poisonous. These would include Boletes, Chanterelles, Field Mushrooms, as well as Wood Blewits. If in any doubt do not eat the mushroom, it remains the only way to be safe.
Even misrecognition of common types such as the writer of the Horse Whisper “Nicholas Evans”, who mistakenly picked poisonous Deadly Webcaps mistaking them for Chanterelles and subsequently poisoning his wife and members of his family for the rest of their lives they will need Kidney Dialysis to live as normal life as possible. Although he has recently undergone a Kidney transplant donated from his daughter.
When I discovered the Death Cap Mushroom
The only time I have discovered this mushroom I felt a strange day had occurred. As I walked in a local forest, open to the general public I began hunting mushroom as I usually do when walking. I came to a darkened dell with only minimal light hitting the leaves below. As I approached I saw a white mushroom that seemed to emanate a strange aura. The forest appeared quite all of a sudden as I kneeled down to the strangely atmospheric mushroom. I checked the stem and noticed how almost too perfectly it appeared to be as it reached its tapered end.
I noticed a gill appearing from the bottom of the stem. I looked underneath and the gills appeared pinkish white and again almost too perfect, like the mushroom was trying to hard to be seen as “fault-free” and therefore without blemish. The aura remained as I examined the strange fungi before moving on. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera (as I usually do) so I was unable to capture any further details. Now I am convinced this was a Death Cap mushroom. As I look back on this experience the two three things that strike me as odd are:
- The strange aura I felt as I approached the mushroom, it was almost tangible it was so strong.
- How quite the forest appeared to be as I knelt near this deadly Mushroom
- How perfect and fault free the mushroom appeared to look.
Harmless mushroom or a deadly killer?
Typical growth patterns of the Death Cap Mushroom
One of the most commonly held beliefs about the Death Cap mushroom is its growing location. The Death Cap mushroom prefers sheltered locations as opposed to open locations. This has the unfortunate problem of allowing the mushroom to grow in locations in parallel to common edible types of fungi such as Field Mushrooms. Field Mushroom typically grows in mature rich pastures in an open location. The Death Cap mushroom (closely resembling a Field Mushroom) could in actuality grow near the peripheral edges of a mushroom cluster and therefore get picked by accident. It is this type of mistake that can lead to fatalities.
The significance of the Death Cap Mushroom in folklore as well as Mythology
Although the Death Cap Mushroom is considered the world’s most deadliest mushroom, it has surprisingly very little mention within Folklore. This could be due to the toxicity of the Mushroom, which serves very little purpose within traditional medicine or alternative medicine, unlike another member of its family the Fly Muscaria (Amanita muscaria).
The Fly Agaric has served many cultures for many thousands of years, and despite belonging to the same family as the Death Cap, has had reportedly close connections with shamans and witch-doctors. The Fly Agaric however is also highly poisonous and needs to be synthesised (shamans in Siberian use the reindeer to process out the poisons of the Fly Agaric with no harm experienced by the reindeer!)
An interesting exploration of the Death Cap Mushroom
A final word of the Death Cap Mushroom
One final note of caution remains that if you choose to forage for wild-foods – that you take a seasoned experienced mushroom gatherer with you to ascertain the Mushrooms in question. Even so the only true way to avoid the Death Cap Mushroom is to purchase your Mushrooms from shops or supermarkets, where all trace of the world’s most deadly mushroom can never exist.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 johndwilliams
Did you find the Death Cap An Amanita Mushroom Hub interesting?
Deliverance on February 14, 2015:
Times are chianngg for the better if I can get this online!
johndwilliams (author) from Essex England on March 22, 2012:
Thanks a million yes Milk Thistle does appear to reduce the fatal liver damaage caused by the Death Cap mushroom - thanks for sharing your knowledge!
Insane Mundane from Earth on March 21, 2012:
If you ever ingest that crap by accident, you better go grab ya some Milk Thistle! Seriously, read up on it... Interesting Hub; cheers!