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Fairy tale mushrooms harbour toxic secret

Experts are warning against eating the red and white polka-dot mushrooms popping up near trees around Vancouver. The colourful mushrooms…

By Pamela Deagle , in City Feature story , on October 29, 2014 Tags: , , ,

Fly agarics found along Ontario St. in Vancouver.
The mushrooms are springing up across Vancouver

Experts are warning against eating the red and white polka-dot mushrooms popping up near trees around Vancouver.

The colourful mushrooms may seem rather harmless because of their fairy tale-like appearance. But, they are dangerous if consumed raw.

The mushrooms identified as Amanita muscaria, commonly known as fly agaric, have hallucinogenic properties and are known for making people violently ill if eaten.

“There are easier ways of getting high,” warned mushroom expert Leanne Gallon.

Fly agarics flatten as they get older.
Fly agaric mushrooms flatten as they get older.

Boil, boil, boil

These eye-catching but potentially hazardous mushrooms are common within the northern hemisphere and spring up next to trees, helping the trees to grow.

The mushrooms may be eaten if properly prepared. They have to be boiled repeatedly and the water changed multiple times to eliminate the hallucinogenic compounds and make them safe to eat. The intensive cooking tends to also kill any flavour.

Gallon was giving advice on mushrooms at the 35th annual Vancouver Mycological Society Mushroom Show, held at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on Sunday Oct. 26.

Educating Vancouver

The Vancouver Mycological Society educates the public about the importance of mushrooms to ecology, the forests, and the economy. This group is also there to help people make sure they pick mushrooms that are safe to eat.

It is about “fostering of knowledge and safety of mushrooms and mushroom foraging,” said Mendel Skulski, president of the society.

While becoming a mushroom expert takes a long time, Mendel added that it also takes a diverse interest and passion not only for mushrooms but also for the forest and ecology.

The society meets up once a month at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens.