A commercial mushroom forager is warning about a poisonous mushroom that closely resembles edible pine mushrooms.
Jody Franklin says he is seeing more toxic Smith’s amanita (Amanita smithiana) mushrooms growing in areas where edible western pine (Tricholoma murrillianum) mushrooms are found.
He is also seeing more beginners asking how to identify the two species on mushroom forums on Facebook.
“What I’m finding this year is that they’re popping up with more frequency,” he said by phone on Tuesday afternoon while he was out foraging for chanterelles in Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park on the Sunshine Coast.
“I’m an experienced, commercial forager. I’m out in the bush four or five days of the week. It is unusual to see or hear reports of this many.”
Earlier this year and in 2018, The Vancouver Sun reported on the spread of death cap (Amanita phalloides) mushrooms in B.C. They are classified as “extremely dangerous and potentially deadly” on Mushrooms Up!, the University of B.C.’s zoology site on edible and poisonous mushrooms of coastal B.C. and the Pacific Northwest.
The website says that eating Smith’s amanita mushrooms can result in kidney failure within two to six days.
“Patients usually recover, but may require hospitalization and hemodialysis,” it says.
Paul Kroeger, one of the founding members of the Vancouver Mycological Society, said Smith’s amanita is associated with mature or old conifer forests where pine mushrooms are also found and harvested.
“Old forest habitat is scarce in Metro Vancouver, so Smith’s amanita is rarely found,” he said by email.
Kroeger, an expert in identifying mushrooms in the wild, said differentiating between the two species is of particular concern for mushroom foragers in Vancouver Island, the Coast Mountains and the Interior wet-belt.
“My concern now is that way more people are going to encounter Smith’s amanita than death caps because people are looking for pine mushrooms,” he said.
“They will encounter the Smith’s and some of them, I’m afraid, may not know how to tell the difference.”
Mushrooms Up! has photographs clearly showing the differences between the two types of mushrooms.
As well, it has a list of five characteristics differentiating poisonous Amanita smithiana from edible Tricholoma murrillianum:
• The stem of Smith’s amanita breaks off if moved back and forth. Sometimes it comes off so cleanly it leaves a round depression under the cap. Because the stem of a pine mushroom is so firmly attached, removing it means mangling the mushroom.
• If you put the stem of a Smith’s amanita in your palm and squeeze down with a reasonable amount of pressure with your thumb, it will feel firm but eventually shatter. A pine mushroom stem is denser and won’t shatter — unless it’s full of maggots “and then you may not want to eat it anyway.”
• In the part of the stem below ground, Smith’s amanita is widest at or below the level of the soil and tapers to a narrow base like a parsnip. Pine mushroom stems are usually widest above the surface of the soil near the ring — they don’t extend deeply into the soil.
• Stems of Smith’s amanita will bend in response to gravity to reorient gills if left in a pile overnight. Pine mushroom stems don’t bend.