The Most Dangerous Types of Mushrooms


Mushrooms are a very popular food. However, interested individuals might have seen the recommendations to stick to store-bought mushrooms rather than seek out wild mushrooms. This is because store-bought mushrooms have been confirmed to be safe for human consumption. Meanwhile, there is no such guarantee for wild mushrooms. Simply put, a wide range of fungi have evolved a wide range of ways to ensure the continuation of their species. Sometimes, their mushrooms are meant to be eaten for the purpose of spreading their spores. Other times, well, suffice to say that mushrooms can be poisonous for much the same reason that other living beings can be poisonous. On top of this, there are poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms that look like one another, which is no coincidence but rather the results of natural selection. As such, it is no wonder that even experienced mushroom hunters have been known to mistake poisonous mushrooms for non-poisonous mushrooms. Fortunately, most cases of mushroom poisoning aren’t lethal. Unfortunately, non-lethal mushroom poisoning can still be very unpleasant.

Deadly Dapperlings

Unsurprisingly, deadly dapperlings have a very unfortunate effect on people when they are eaten. Initially, the symptoms are gastrointestinal in nature. However, nausea and vomiting follow around 10 hours after consumption. After which, liver damage happens, which is a very serious issue when we are rather reliant on our livers to live. There are a couple of reasons why deadly dapperlings make this list. One, they are quite common, as shown by how they show up everywhere from Europe to the temperate parts of Asia. Two, deadly dapperlings are relatively generic-looking with their brown-scaled caps, white gills, and pinkish-brown stems, with the result that they are often mistaken for either the grey knight or the fairy ring mushroom. Those two mushrooms are edible. Meanwhile, the deadly dapperling is exactly as edible as one would expect based on the name, which is to say, not at all.

Deadly Skullcaps

Deadly skullcaps is one of the nicknames for Galerina marginata. Similarly, funeral bells is another nickname. Based on this, it should come as no surprise to learn that deadly skullcaps are very poisonous. On the plus side, while these mushrooms have killed people, they apparently aren’t responsible for as many cases as some of their more infamous counterparts. Supposedly, this is because they don’t get mistaken for edible mushrooms very often. Instead, people tend to poison themselves with deadly skullcaps because they mistake these for a kind of psilocybin mushroom. In any case, if someone is unlucky enough to eat deadly skullcaps, both liver damage and kidney damage are expected. Initial symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, and severe stomach pain. Later, coma and even death are possible outcomes. Appearance-wise, deadly skullcaps are an excellent example of little brown mushrooms, which is a term that encompasses a very wide range of mushrooms. As such, interested individuals might want to stay away from those, particularly since telling one little brown mushroom apart from another can be challenging to say the least. Indeed, it is interesting to note that Galerina marginata was once believed to be five separate species situated throughout the northern hemisphere. However, a DNA analysis revealed that all of them were just different-looking members of the same species. Something that should make it very clear just how difficult it can be to distinguish these mushrooms from one another.

Death Caps

Unsurprisingly, death caps are very dangerous. After all, their name is rather ominous, so it makes sense for there to be some kind of reason behind it. As it turns out, death caps are well-known for a number of reasons, all of which are connected to their poisonous nature in some way. For starters, these mushrooms are very poisonous. Just half a cap is capable of killing an adult human by targeting the liver as well as other vital organs. As such, one of the potential symptoms of death cap poisoning is jaundice, which is why someone turns either greenish or yellowish because of high levels of bilirubin. Something that often indicates some kind of liver problem. Other symptoms include but are not limited to nausea, vomiting, and seizures, which show up within 6 to 12 hours of consumption. The exact mortality rate of death cap poisoning. However, it is believed to be very high at around 10 to 30 percent.

Having said that, a high mortality rate isn’t enough to make death caps as famous as they are. After all, there are a lot of dangerous things out there, which nonetheless aren’t very well-known because they just don’t come up very much. Unfortunately, death caps aren’t one of those things because they are quite common. Originally, these mushrooms were native to a huge chunk of Europe. This can be seen in how death caps can be found from the southern coasts of Scandinavia to much of the Mediterranean Basin. Similarly, this can be seen in how death caps can be found from Ireland to western Russia. Nowadays, these mushrooms have spread even further because of the cultivation of non-native oaks, pines, and chestnuts in other parts of the world. As such, it is no exaggeration to say that death caps pose a serious threat to mushroom hunters in a wide range of places in a wide range of countries. This is particularly true because it is difficult to distinguish death caps from non-poisonous mushrooms. They have often-greenish caps, ribbed caps, and white stipes, which is a combination of characteristics that doesn’t do enough to make them stand out. Even worse, that often-greenish isn’t the same as always greenish, thus making the color of the cap a very unreliable way to identify death caps.

As such, it is no wonder that people often mistake death caps for non-poisonous mushrooms, with Caesar’s mushrooms and straw mushrooms being particularly common in this regard. There is one more reason why death caps are well-known. Their poison is thermostable, with the result that it sticks around even when these mushrooms have been either cooked, frozen, or dried. Combined with the aforementioned characteristics, this means that death caps have been used in assassinations. To name an example, Agrippina the Younger is believed to have murdered her husband the Roman emperor Claudius to clear the way for her son Nero. Death caps are a very popular candidate for the murder method, not least because Claudius is known to have been very fond of Caesar’s mushrooms. To name another example, the Habsburg emperor Charles VI has been claimed to have been a victim of death caps as well. Said event proved his life’s work of ensuring a peaceful succession for his daughter Maria Theresa to be a complete failure by causing the War of the Austrian Succession, though Maria Theresa proved to have been made out of sterner stuff than what anyone expected. In any case, these events have contributed much to the reputation of death caps, thus making them one of the most infamous poisonous mushrooms out there.

Destroying Angels

Speaking of which, death caps aren’t the only Amanita mushrooms with an infamous reputation. After all, destroying angels are their close relatives. However, it is important to note that this name refers to not one, not two, but three kinds of Amanita mushrooms that come from eastern North America, western North America, and Europe. Combined with death caps, destroying angels are responsible for most of the deaths that occur from mushroom poisonings. Unsurprisingly, this means that these are very dangerous mushrooms. Indeed, destroying angels are very similar to their counterparts in that they are capable of killing adult humans with just half a cap. The evidence suggests that swift treatment can do a great deal to influence the outcome of consuming destroying angels. Unfortunately, one of the nastiest things about these mushrooms is that symptoms take 5 to 24 hours to show up, which is more than enough time for the absorbed poison to do irreversible damage to the liver, the kidneys, and other parts of the human body. Still, potential symptoms include but are not limited to diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, convulsions, and delirium. On the plus side, it is possible to distinguish destroying angels from other mushrooms.

This is because they possess a combination of characteristics that is found nowhere else. Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with this. One, there are a lot of characteristics that people need to watch out for. For starters, destroying angels have gills, a white stalk, and a cap that can be either pure white or white at the edges before turning either tan, yellowish, or even pinkish towards the center. Furthermore, they have an annulus, which would be the ring-like structure that encircles the upper portion of the stalk. Meanwhile, the gills of the destroying angels are free-standing in nature rather than attached to the stalk. On top of this, destroying angels have a volva, which would be the cup-like structure at the bottom of the mushroom that is left over from the universal veil that once enclosed them. It is very common to hear recommendations to check thoroughly for the presence of a volva because this can be a matter of life or death for mushroom hunters. Two, even if people know every single one of the relevant characteristics, there is no guarantee that they will be able to pick out destroying angels from similar-looking mushrooms such as button mushrooms and horse mushrooms. For that matter, destroying angels that haven’t matured can look a lot like puffballs because they haven’t emerged from the universal veil, so that is one more potential concern.

Poison Fire Coral

Poison fire coral is a convenient name for the Podostroma cornu-damae, which isn’t as common as some of the other mushrooms on this list but is nonetheless very dangerous. After all, there are multiple cases of mushroom poisonings that are known to have happened in Japan because of the consumption of these mushrooms. For example, one individual from a group of five in Niigata prefecture died in 1999 after consuming just one or two grams that had been soaked in rice wine. Similarly, another individual from Gunma prefecture died in 2000 after eating a bit of the fried fruiting body. As for what the poison fire coral does to people, well, suffice to say that it doesn’t do wonders for the proper functioning of people’s vital organs. Besides this, other potential symptoms include the loss of hair, the peeling of skin from the face, stomach pains, changes in perception, speech impediments, and problems with voluntary movement. The latter seem to be connected to shrinkage in the cerebellum. In any case, Japan isn’t the only place where the poison fire coral can be found. Initially, it was thought that it was found in just Japan and Korea. Unfortunately, it turns out that the poison fire coral can be found in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and even Australia. On the plus side, it is hard to imagine most people making a choice to eat the fruiting bodies of the poison fire coral. This is because the name is very literal, meaning that the fruiting bodies grow as bright red, coral-like stalks. They don’t look very edible. If anything, they look the exact opposite of edible.


Webcaps refer to members of the genus Cortinarius. Apparently, it is possible for experienced mushroom hunters to distinguish these mushrooms from other mushrooms. However, it is difficult even for them to figure out exactly which species that a particular Cortinarius mushroom belongs to because a lot of them are next-to-identical with one another, which rather complicates things to say the least. As such, it is often recommended to just avoid eating these mushrooms altogether because there are some very poisonous webcaps that can be found out there. To name some examples, the Orellani can kill by causing kidney damage. They often possess a cobweb-looking veil between the cap and the stem. Unfortunately, the presence of a veil is by no means guaranteed because it disappears either in part or in full in older mushrooms. Other than that, the Orellani are infamous for being very ordinary-looking, thus making them that much more dangerous. Indeed, the author Nicholas Evans, his wife, and a couple of their relatives consumed poisonous mushrooms of this kind in September of 2008, with the result that every single one of them was told that they would need a kidney transplant.

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