Welcome to the Shroomery Message Board! You are experiencing a small sample of what the site has to offer. Please login or register to post messages and view our exclusive members-only content. You'll gain access to additional forums, file attachments, board customizations, encrypted private messages, and much more!
NEWTON - A Newton woman picking mushrooms for a home-cooked meal accidentally chose a dangerous kind that left her and her adult son in intensive care, authorities said yesterday.
The woman and her son, whom Newton officials would not identify, were in good condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center yesterday, five days after eating what some officials suspect was a variety of Amanita phalloides mushroom, also called the death cap.
The poisonous mushrooms were apparently picked and eaten last Thursday in an Oak Hill neighborhood near the woman’s home, said Newton Health Commissioner David Naparstek.
City officials made the case public at Mayor David Cohen’s weekly press conference in order to warn the public about the dangers of eating wild mushrooms, which, if poisonous, can cause liver and kidney damage and occasionally death.
The wet cool summer and fall has made for a particularly abundant crop of wild mushrooms across the state, Naparstek said.
“The message we want to send is that the mushrooms in your backyard can be very pretty, but also very deadly,’’ he said. “Don’t eat them.’’
The woman was Ukrainian by origin, and may have had experience picking wild mushrooms, said Newton officials.
Mushroom foraging is a popular hobby in Eastern Europe, where families pass down mushroom hunting lore from parent to child, said Russ Cohen, a member of the Boston Mycological Club and author of “Wild Plants I Have Known . . . and Eaten.’’
Amanita is “very, very nasty’’ and among the most poisonous of local mushrooms, a genus accounting for more than 90 percent of all reported wild mushroom fatalities, he said. Some varieties are so toxic that even mushroom experts avoid them, Cohen said.
Amateur New England foragers enjoy a mushroom season that lasts from roughly July Fourth to Columbus Day, and most stick to easily identifiable edible mushrooms, Cohen said: morels in the spring, yellow chanterelles in the summer, and oyster mushrooms in the fall.
Wild mushroom poisoning remains fairly rare.
The Regional Center for Poison Control, based at Children’s Hospital Boston, said that of the 195,000 calls it has handled since 2006 from Massachusetts, only 630 have been about potentially dangerous mushrooms.
Of those calls, 136 cases were referred to a health care provider for further treatment, said the center’s spokeswoman Colleen Longfellow.
Callers are encouraged to snap a cellphone photo of a questionable mushroom, as well as collect a sample in a bag for further study. An e-mailed photo of a potentially deadly mushroom can be examined by one of the agency’s mushroom specialists, called mycologists, often within an hour, she said.
“We tell people they should absolutely avoid picking wild mushrooms,’’ said Longfellow. “And anyone with any concerns should call us immediately.’’
Homeowners with small children who want to remove wild mushrooms from their yards can do so with a shovel and a bag, but should wash their hands carefully afterward to prevent accidental hand-mouth contact or ingestion, Longfellow said.
The death cap mushroom is found worldwide, and historians believe it was used to assassinate the ancient Roman emperor Claudius, said Dr. John Halamka, a consulting mycologist with the poison control agency.
He said that while most toxic mushrooms produce stomach distress in a patient within two hours, the death cap doesn’t produce symptoms for up to 24 hours. Liver and kidney distress, and possibly failure, can follow if swift medical attention is not sought, he said.