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Your best mushroom could be your last

If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, that beautiful, delicious wild mushroom you eat could kill you.

The Amanita Phalloides mushroom, also known as the death cap, is having a strong season, springing up in parks and open spaces around the Bay Area. The deadly mushroom can range from a dull green to brown, even white. Its color and shape make it tricky to distinguish from edible mushrooms.

“It is very difficult to distinguish which mushrooms are dangerous and which are safe to eat,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “We recommend that wild mushrooms not be eaten unless they have been carefully examined and determined to be edible by a mushroom expert.”

On top of being hard to tell from safe mushrooms, Amanita Phalloides can also be super yummy. This, plus a typical eight- to 12-hour delay in the onset of symptoms, can lull victims into a sense of safety and also delay critical treatment.

Dr. Kent Olson, medical director of the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System, told the Bay Citizen:

“One guy that died said it was the best mushroom he’d ever eaten.”

Amanita Phalloides is native to Europe, but was introduced to the West Coast in the 1930s. Since then it has spread to thrive around Northern California’s evergreen woodlands. Eating a death cap sent nearly 1,000 Californians to the hospital in 2009-10. Ten suffered major health issues like liver failure or coma, while two died.

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