Death cap mushroom advisory warns people to 'play it safe'
by Karin Larsen, CBC News
October 3, 2018

Foragers cautioned to stay away from all urban mushrooms and report any sightings of deadly fungus


Officials are warning foragers to stay away from all urban mushroom as death caps become more common in Vancouver, Victoria and the Fraser Valley. (Paul Kroeger)

With death cap mushrooms sprouting up in ever increasing numbers, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued an advisory warning people to avoid picking urban mushrooms altogether, and to report any sightings of the deadly fungus.

"The death cap has been sighted frequently in Vancouver and Victoria," said Raymond Li of the B.C. Drug and Poison Control Centre.

"In order to get a handle on what's happening out there, especially for preventative efforts, we're asking the public to report sightings if they think they've found it."


This death cap was growing on the base of a hornbeam tree near Main St. in Vancouver. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

The death cap is the most poisonous mushroom in the world, containing toxins that damage the liver and kidneys. One death cap can be enough to kill an adult human.

Death caps have now been confirmed at over 100 sites on B.C.'s south coast, including on Vancouver Island, Galliano Island and in the eastern Fraser Valley. Due to low reporting, experts believe they are likely growing in many more locations.


Mushroom experts and health authorities have created a poster to try to warn people in many languages to beware of the danger of so-called death cap mushrooms. (Island Health, UBC, the Wall Foundation and local mycologists)

Of 29 mushroom exposure calls received by the Drug and Poison Control Centre since Sept. 1, Li said none have been related to death caps.

"Lots of kids finding mushrooms and munching on them, and at least three cases of adults who have gone foraging and gotten sick, but none from the death cap," he said, noting that cases involving intentionally ingested hallucinogenic "magic" mushrooms were excluded from the mushroom exposure number.


Amanita phalloides or death cap mushrooms were first spotted in B.C. in 1997, found growing in Mission near old chestnut trees. (Paul Kroeger)

In 2016, a three--year-old Victoria boy died after eating a death cap that had been picked by his parents in the downtown area of the city.

To spread the word the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has released an information brochure with photos and information about how to identify death caps and report sightings.

Its also put out a longer document aimed at municipalities and parks staff.

Death caps are responsible for 95 per cent of all mushroom deaths. Three in 10 people who get sick from eating a death cap will die and those who survive often need a liver transplant.

Death caps resemble the edible Asian paddy straw mushroom, which does not grow in B.C. Immature death caps have been also been mistaken for edible puff ball mushrooms.


Young death caps like this one have been mistaken for edible puff ball mushrooms. (Oak Bay Parks staff/Chris Hyde-Lay)

This past summer, Island Health issued a warning after death caps started appearing in a couple of Victoria-area neighbourhoods. Usually wild mushrooms flourish during spring and fall rains, but it is believed lawn watering may have triggered the fruiting.

The death cap is not native to B.C. and is believed to have been introduced decades ago on the roots of imported European trees.

The mushroom is not poisonous to the touch.