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Be careful with Rossmoor mushrooms

Mushrooms that contain toxins can be dangerous

By News staff

The return of wet weather has brought back mushrooms throughout Rossmoor, as seen in the plethora of photos residents are taking.

Each year, mushrooms come out in force after the rains. While ecologically important and often a beautiful sight, mushrooms also can be dangerous because some contain toxins.

The Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel are two of the world’s most toxic mushrooms, and both can be found in Rossmoor during the rainy season.

The Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel mushrooms contain amatoxins, a group of molecules that inhibit cellular metabolism in many animals. In mammals, the liver and kidneys are typically the first organs affected after ingestion. Symptoms don’t usually appear until up to 12 hours after consumption, beginning as severe gastrointestinal distress and progressing to the liver and renal failure if treatment is not sought immediately.

The Death Cap is a medium- to-large mushroom that typically has a greenish-gray cap, white gills, a white ring around the stem and a large white sac at the base of the stem. Though mainly associated with oak trees, it has been found growing with other hardwoods. It was accidentally introduced to North America on the roots of European cork oaks and is now colonizing the West Coast.

The Western Destroying Angel is a medium-to-large mushroom that usually has a creamy white cap,

Death Cap mushrooms are seen growing amid wet grass and leaves in Rossmoor. Photo by Janet Seldon 

white gills, a white ring around the stem that disappears with age, and a thin white sac at the base. It fruits from late winter into spring. It is associated exclusively with oaks. Unlike the death cap, it is a native California mushroom.

Also popping up around the valley are Fly Agaric, one of the most recognizable mushrooms for their reddish color and white spots. This mushroom also is poisonous and can cause hallucinations. They often grow in groups in woodland areas.

The Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel can also be dangerous for pets.

Dog owners should keep a close watch on their dogs during the winter months. Pet owners should contact a veterinarian immediately if they suspect their pet may have eaten a toxic mushroom.

While the Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel mushrooms are responsible for most cases of mushroom poisonings in California, deadly toxins can also be found in Galerina and Lepiota mushroom species, both which occur in the Bay Area as well.

Although poisonous if ingested, mushrooms are a sign that the soil is healthy and contains a lot of organic material. Mushrooms help to break down this organic material, which makes the soil more productive.