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First death cap mushroom discovered in South Australia

Examples of the Death Cap mushroom (<i>Amanita phalloides</i>) found at the Waite Arboretum, Urrbrae.

Examples of the Death Cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) found at the Waite Arboretum, Urrbrae.
Full Image (101.47K)

Examples of the Death Cap mushroom (<i>Amanita phalloides</i>) found at the Waite Arboretum, Urrbrae.

Examples of the Death Cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) found at the Waite Arboretum, Urrbrae.
Full Image (169.29K)

Thursday, 17 July 2008

SA Health has warned of the dangers of eating unidentified mushrooms following the first verified discovery of the 'Death Cap' mushroom in South Australia.

The Death Cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) was discovered growing in the University of Adelaide's Waite Arboretum in Urrbrae, and its identity has been confirmed by DNA analysis.

Ingestion of the mushroom has previously resulted in two deaths in Australia and world-wide its consumption has caused more deaths than any other mushroom.

SA Health's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, said that the identification of South Australia's first Death Cap mushroom provided a timely reminder of the dangers of eating unidentified wild fungi.

"The discovery of this dangerous mushroom emphasises the importance of not consuming any wild mushroom unless it has been identified by an expert and you are certain it's not poisonous," Professor Phillips said.

"The Death Cap may be confused with other, edible mushrooms such as the Straw Mushroom used in Asian cuisine, and a similar species found in Australia.

"All parts of the Death Cap are deadly if eaten, with one cap sufficient to kill a healthy adult. Initial symptoms of stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea may occur between six and 24 hours after eating.

"There is no full antidote for the mushroom's toxin. Once eaten, survival depends on early recognition and treatment.

"Anyone who becomes ill after eating mushrooms should seek urgent medical attention and, if possible, bring a whole mushroom with them for identification."

The first Death Cap was found in the Waite Arboretum by South Australia fungi specialist Pam Catcheside, Hononary Research Associate at the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium, and her colleagues.

Mrs Catcheside said the Death Cap could also be present, under oaks, in the Mount Lofty ranges, just not yet recorded.

The University of Adelaide is monitoring the Arboretum daily and destroying any visible Death Caps.

The fungus is common in suburbs of the ACT and Melbourne, and can also be found in some Victorian country towns. Although there have been previous reports of Death Cap sightings in South Australia, this is the first time their presence has been confirmed by DNA analysis.

The Death Cap is an introduced fungus and grows in association with oaks although, in countries other than Australia, it has been reported in association with eucalypts, acacias and pines.

The cap of Amanita phalloides may be between 40-150mm in diameter, is dome-shaped initially, then becomes flattened. It is often olive-greenish with satiny streaks but may be pale yellow, sometimes brownish.

The veil that initially covers the whole mushroom splits as the fungus enlarges, leaving white membranous patches on the cap and a cup-like bulb at the base of the stem. Gills are white and rather crowded and leave a white spore print. The stem is also white, up to 130mm long and 20mm in diameter and has a white, skirt-like ring under the cap.

Useful links are:
http://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/deathcap.html
http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/171_5_060999/trim/trim.html
http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/fungimap_/welcome

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