Potentially fatal Death Cap mushrooms have been spotted in Canberra. Picture: Sarah Matray
Potentially fatal Death Cap mushrooms have been spotted in Canberra. Picture: Sarah Matray

Deadly mushrooms spotted in city

Death Cap mushrooms have been spotted in Canberra after recent wet weather, containing enough poison in one cap "to kill a healthy adult".

"Less will be enough to kill a small child," the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG), located in the capital city, says.

Symptoms can also subside for a couple of days, giving a false impression of recovery.

The mushroom as a baby and fully grown. Picture: Sarah Matray
The mushroom as a baby and fully grown. Picture: Sarah Matray

 

A warning was issued in Victoria in March when the deadly mushroom began sprouting around the state.

The ACT health department today issued its warning about the fungi, which can be "lethal if ingested".

"They often grow near established oak trees and can be found when there is wet weather," it said in a statement.

"Anyone who thinks they may have eaten a death cap mushroom should go straight to the nearest Emergency Department.

"Do not wait for symptoms to appear - the sooner you get treatment, the better your chance of survival."

The Amanita phalloides. Picture: Heino Lepp/Australian National Botanic Gardens
The Amanita phalloides. Picture: Heino Lepp/Australian National Botanic Gardens

Historically, there have been four deaths and 12 reported incidents of poisoning associated with the Death Cap mushroom in the ACT.

According to an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, one man was hospitalised in 1998 after picking mushrooms from his back garden in Canberra and cooking them as a pasta sauce. He later recovered.

In 2002, an 88-year-old woman died of liver failure after cooking the mushrooms from her yard in a soup, The Canberra Times reported.

The introduced fungus is responsible for 90 per cent of all deaths related to mushroom consumption.

The health department also advises against picking or eating any wild mushrooms because "even experienced collectors" have difficulty distinguishing them from edible ones.

A younger Amanita phalloides. Picture: Heino Lepp/Australian National Botanic Gardens
A younger Amanita phalloides. Picture: Heino Lepp/Australian National Botanic Gardens

Symptoms of poisoning can occur six to 24 hours or more after ingestion.

"The first symptoms are stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea. These may continue for a day or two, after which there is typically an easing of symptoms and apparent recovery," the ANBG says.

"The 'recovery' period may last for two or three days. Then the terminal phase of three to five days starts with the recurrence of stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea - accompanied by jaundice.

"Without effective, early medical intervention, coma and death occur between one and two weeks after eating the mushroom. Death is caused by liver failure, often accompanied by kidney failure."

If you think you have eaten one, you should go to hospital immediately. Where possible, take a whole mushroom sample with you for identification.

Four deaths in the ACT have been linked to the Death Cap. Picture: Sarah Matray
Four deaths in the ACT have been linked to the Death Cap. Picture: Sarah Matray

WHAT DOES A DEATH CAP MUSHROOM LOOK LIKE?

- Cap is 40-160mm wide, may be white but usually pale green to yellow in colour, or fawn if the mushroom is older or located in full sun

- The cap can be slippery or sticky to touch, and shiny when dry

- The "gills" are white, crowded and not attached to the stalk

- The stalk is normally white but may be pale green, up to 15cm long, with a papery cup shaped volva or structure at the base often buried in the ground

- The stalk normally has a skirt-like ring present high on the stem

KNOWN GROWTH LOCATIONS IN THE ACT

- Acton

- Ainslie

- Braddon

- Commonwealth Park

- Deakin

- Dickson

- Griffith

- Latham

- O'Connor

- Red Hill

- Reid

- Turner

- Yarralumla

If you're in the ACT and think a Death Cap mushroom may be growing in a public area, don't touch it. Report it immediately to Access Canberra on 13 22 81.


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