Amanita phalloides, also known as “death cap” mushrooms are some of the deadliest mushrooms in the world and have been subtly growing in British Columbia for the past 19 years.
While it looks just like any other mushroom, the death cap is highly dangerous and responsible for a reported 90 per cent of fatal mushroom poisonings around the world.
In B.C., it was first discovered in Mission in 1997, and then emerged in Victoria in 1998, followed by Vancouver ten years later in 2008.
Today, amanita phalloides can be found growing in urban areas of the South Coast and was responsible for hospitalizing a Victoria resident earlier this week 12 hours after ingestion.
According to researchers, initial symptoms are gastro-intenstinal, which includes diarrhea and vomiting. Within 15 hours, toxins from the mushroom move throughout the body and attack the kidney, liver, and other organs.
If untreated, patients may be forced to get a liver transplant in order to save their life.
A batch of 12 mushrooms alone are poisonous enough to kill 16 people. Household pets including dogs also face harm if they ingest the mushroom.
Death caps come in all shapes and sizes, but have some unique features that people should be aware about. This includes:
- Stem is often white, light yellow, or olive-green
- Stem’s base has a cup-like structure (known as a volva).
- Cap is round when the mushroom is young, but flattens as the mushroom matures and develops a wave-like edge.
- Cap may be sticky and slippery to touch
- Often found with white gills underneath the cap
- Known to subtly smell similar to rose petals
Despite the fact it was first discovered in British Columbia in 1997, it’s believed to have been around for decades before that within imported trees from Europe.
Currently, researchers are actively searching the province for more potential locations suitable for amanita phalloides to grow.
Though the deathcaps are continuing to grow in B.C. at a concerning rate, they have yet to claim a life in the province.