Monday, November 4th, 2013...12:23 pm

Death caps

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This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Once you have made the fateful choice to eat a Death cap it starts out slowly, there is no discomfort for the first twelve hours then you have abdominal pain with vomiting, diarrhea, and an extreme thirst.  After two days there is a period of quiet where you show no symptoms, however they will come back even more intensely until, “…the nervous system is gradually paralysed, the liver degenerates, there is delirium, collapse and death.”  According to Poisonous fungi by John Ramsbottom, Death caps, or Amanita phalloides, are responsible for over 90% of recorded death by fungus poisoning (at least in 1945).  If you have only eaten a small amount it is possible that you can survive, but you will have a slow and long recovery.

Amanita muscaria is commonly found in the woods and often appears as a “typical” depiction of a mushroom in illustrations, films, and even as toys.  The poison is mainly located in the cap, but what is interesting is that it almost never causes death in healthy people.  If one has ingested it they may experience a bit of delirium and hallucinations, as well as intestinal disturbance.  This may be followed by an intense stupor and upon awakening one may remember nothing.  Scandinavian tradition credits this mushroom with causing the Vikings to go berserk.  It has also been eaten in Siberia on occasions where a high emotional state is desired. 

Now that we have taken a look at what not to eat out in the forest, check the blog next week when we take a look at Ramsbottom’s volume of Edible fungi.

Poisonous fungi / by John Ramsbottom. With colour plates, by Rose Ellenby. London ; New York : Penguin Books Limited, 1945. QK617. R36 1945.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager for contributing this post.

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