A serious identification mistake: not a Matsutake, an Amanita!

Matsutake

Amanita smithiana (www.mushroomexpert.com)

I was called on my cell phone on Monday, Oct. 25, by a woman in Hood River, OR, who had mistaken what she now believes was an Amanita smithiana for a Matsutake mushroom. I have attached both pictures.  Please study them.  Remember that the intense rain has been altering the typical Amanita characterisitcs, not that smithiana is a typical Amanita in the first place.  It is not uncommon to find it where we hunt Matsutakes.

This isn’t the first time I have seen these two mushrooms confused,  but this is the worst result so far. The woman had given it to a friend who became very ill that evening, throwing up for a very long time.  The friend felt much better and would not go to the hopital despite urging from her gift-giver and the poison control center. Unfortunately she had eaten the whole mushroom with nothing left to identify.  The mushroom picker was frantic to get someone who knew mushrooms to talk with her friend about getting medical attention.  Somehow she got my number off the internet.  With more information from great mushroom websites on toxins  and continual supportive coaxing, the victim finally called back to say she was on the way to the hospital.  Two days later she is still in the hospital with serious kidney issues that may require dialysis soon.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  It is so easy to get over-confident.  Please look carefully at each and every mushroom you plan to eat.  If something looks a little different and you choose to eat it anyway, at least save a little of the cap for identification purposes should they be necessary.   And most of all, don’t trust the mushrooms that someone else gives you unless you are totally knowledgeable of what you are eating. Those of you who are generous and picked too many, don’t feel insulted that your families or friends don’t eat your gifts.  You can teach them over time.  Just enjoy them yourself and prepare them for another day by freezing or drying. In the excitement of the hunt, you can get “pickin’ happy.”  But the responsibility for your life and health or worse, someone who you really care about’s health, can never be taken lightly.  The mushrooms will be back!   Take your time and  learn them well!

4 Responses to “A serious identification mistake: not a Matsutake, an Amanita!”

  1. Thank you for sharing this experience, Gina. It will help everyone be very aware of what they are sharing and eating. I urge every picker to smell each individual Matsutake BEFORE putting it in their basket to be sure it has the cinnamon/funky fungi smell. Then again, as you clean the mushroom, look at what you know is characteristic of Matsutake – firm tapered stem, amber-yellow stains on stem and cap somewhere, distinctive odor. IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! There will be more another time.

    I am so glad your situation did not create a permanent problem, Gina. Best of health to you on this Thanksgiving night.

  2. On October 3, 2010, I was given three washed Matsutake mushrooms from my mother to eat. I sliced them up and pan-fried them and ate them as a snack. Three hours later, I vomited 10 times with blood in some of the vomit. Thankfully my husband urged me to go to the emergency and was diagnosed that I ate the Amanita mushroom. It was hard to swallow when I was told that I would have to stay in the hospital anywhere from one to ten days depending on the severity…. but thankfully I was released 12 hours later. The Matsutake mushroom is very popular among the Korean community and I hope this goes out as a warning to everyone out there that it is not safe to ingest mushrooms that are picked in the wild especially by inexperienced pickers. I would never want anyone to experience what I went through.

  3. I believe that I found several of these A. Smithian ( p.275 in Aurora) this season on McKenzie pass, and assuming that I am actually correct in my identification, they looked considerably more like the Matsus in this picture than they looked like the A. Smithiana pix. The pure white veil completely covered the cap from edge to edge, with no tell-tail shreds hanging down, and was close to impossible to peel off, so that one might not be alerted that it was a veil at all. The veil remains a solid sheet, and does not give the appearance of warts : just some distinctive, somewhat vague, but probably defining *irregular low lumpiness* on the caps which may be what distinguishes it from A .Silvicola (which is not so lumpy on top?) and links it with A. Magniverrucata group.

    Aurora does not show a picture of this species, and his description is not particularly good, so a person is kind of going by feel when they try and dope this one out via his book. It’s possible that the specimines I found are indeed Silvicola, but the distinctive lumpiness on the cap is not mentioned for that species.

    Experienced hunters are likely to get that Amanita vibe when they see this thing, but those who tend to think in terms of warts when they think of amanitas, and are not familiar with the families’ wide range of physical expression, might well be fooled if they were in that particular Matsu mindset when they were out hunting.

  4. I received an email from Jan L., the toxicology head for OMS, saying that according to the poison control center, our poisoning victim was released from the hospital without having to undergo dialysis. It looks like she will recover well. That is a happy ending to a frightening story.

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