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The Death Cap

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

These look pretty, right? Well, they’re one of the most deadly mushrooms in the world!

These are “Death Caps” – Amanita phalloides. They are responsible for the majority of fatal mushroom poisonings worldwide. Half a cap is estimated to have enough toxins to kill a human – and symptoms often don’t appear for between 6-24 hours after consumption. The initial reaction is severe sickness similar to a particularly strong flu virus – abdominal cramps, vomiting, and severely dehydrating diarrhea. Meanwhile the poison steadily destroys the liver and soon the victim will require a liver transplant. Without prompt treatment, the victim can experience rapid organ failure, coma, and death. If ingested, one should call poison control immediately. In the US that number is 800-222-1222.

The Death Cap resembles several edible species, which is why they are commonly consumed without the victim knowing anything is wrong. Some of these mushrooms include the Asian Paddy Straw mushroom, the Coccora mushroom, the Springtime Amanita, and when they are still at an early stage, puffball mushrooms. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area I most commonly find them under Oak Trees.

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