Potentially fatal death cap mushrooms spotted in Victoria neighbourhood
Island Health confirms the potentially fatal fungus Amanita phalloides has already flowered in Uplands this July, earlier than usual. July 17, 2017. (South Vancouver Island Mycological Society)
The same highly toxic and potentially fatal “death cap mushroom” that killed a three-year-old boy last year has been spotted growing again in a Victoria neighbourhood.
Island Health confirms the fungus, known scientifically as Amanita phalloides, has already flowered in an area of Ripon Road in Uplands this July – much earlier than it’s usually seen in the area.
“The fungus is present in the root system year-round, and most mushrooms pop up in fall after rains,” said Dr. Brenda Callan, a mycologist with Natural Resources Canada. “It can be encouraged to fruit early if there’s a lot of water.”
Callan said the mushrooms generally don't start popping up until late August or early fall, and their early presence could be attributed to irrigation in public areas, lawns or gardens.
Death caps, which have a distinct greenish hue, are commonly seen sprouting up near imported trees like hornbeams or linden trees, and have been observed around the Capital Region in places like Foul Bay Road, Richmond Avenue, downtown near Crystal Garden and along Government Street.
Experts are now trying to get the word out to parents and pet owners so they can avoid the fungus, which looks similar to a puffball mushroom when first pushing through the ground.
Also at risk are new immigrants from Asian countries, who may confuse death caps with similar-looking edible mushrooms found in that part of the world.
“It’s just about being prudent and not taking chances, not thinking you’re familiar with the mushrooms and not double-checking if you’re uncertain,” said Callan.
In October last year, a three-year-old boy whose family foraged the mushroom from an area in downtown Victoria ingested it, became sick and died in hospital.
Following the tragedy, his family urged Island health to ramp up public education of the risks of the death cap mushroom.
The fungus was likely first introduced in B.C. by travelling over in the roots of imported hardwood trees planted in the 1960s and 70s, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Symptoms of ingesting the toxic mushroom include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, liver and kidney failure and possibly death. The symptoms generally appear between six and 24 hours after consumption.
Anyone who believes they’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom is urged to call the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or call 911.