Amanita phalloides: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Amanita phalloides Mushroom
The Amanita phalloides mushroom likely kills and poisons more people every year than any other mushroom in the world. It looks, smells, and tastes delicious. This mushroom is known as death cap.
When someone eats death cap, she typically won’t experience symptoms for at least six and sometimes as many as 24 hours. Eventually, she’ll suffer from abdominal cramps, vomiting, and severely dehydrating diarrhea. This delay means her symptoms might not be associated with mushrooms, and she may be diagnosed with a more benign illness like stomach flu. To make matters worse, if the patient is somewhat hydrated, her symptoms may lessen and she will enter the so-called honeymoon phase.
Meanwhile, the poison stealthily destroys her liver. It binds to and disables an enzyme responsible for making new proteins. Without this enzyme, cells can’t function, and liver failure results. Without proper, prompt treatment, the victim can experience rapid organ failure, coma, and death.
Amanita phalloides Identification
4-16 cm; nearly round or oval at first, becoming convex, then broadly convex to flat in age; bald; sticky when wet, shiny when dry; color ranging from dull green to olive to yellowish to brownish (rarely, white "albino" forms are collected alongside forms with pigmented caps); appearing finely and innately streaked; occasionally with one or a few patches of white veil material; the margin usually not lined.
Free from the stem or nearly so; white (sometimes with a slight greenish tint); close or crowded.
5-18 cm long; 1-2.5 cm thick; more or less equal, or frequently tapering to apex and flaring to a swollen base; bald or finely hairy; white or with tints of the cap color; with a white, skirtlike ring that typically persists but is sometimes lost; with a sacklike white volva encasing the base (sometimes underground or broken up).
White throughout; unchanging when sliced.
Spore Print: White.
Amanita phalloides Habitat
The death cap mushroom is an invasive species from Europe, now present on every continent except Antarctica. It became such a world traveler because humans spread the mushroom’s spores around like glitter at a kids’ glitter party.
The death cap is common in many suburbs and can be found in most autumns near oak trees, with which it forms a symbiotic association.
Amanita phalloides Symptoms
Gastric-intestinal troubles (nausea, alimentary vomiting, then biliary, watery diarrhea), dehydration with consequent hypotension, strong thirst, abdominal pains.
Acute hepatic insufficiency and appearance of icterus, coagulopathy, at times serious dehydration with acute renal insufficiency, lethargy, coma, and possible death. In any case, as a consequence of the acute hepatic insufficiency, the liver might be irreversibly jeopardized, to the point to necessitate transplantation.
Amanita phalloides Treatment
Any patient suspected of ingesting death cap mushrooms should be admitted to the hospital.
Initial management consists of vigorous monitoring and replacement of expected fluid losses, which may be several liters per day. Along with fluid replacement correction of metabolic disturbances such as acidosis, hypoglycemia, and electrolyte imbalances should be undertaken. The patient should be hemodynamically monitored and biochemical parameters followed closely.
Amanita phalloides Toxin
The occurrence and chemistry of three groups of toxins (amatoxins, phallotoxins and virotoxins) are summarized. The concentration and distribution of toxins in certain species are variable, with the young fruit body containing lower, and the well-developed fungus higher concentrations, but there is high variability among specimens collected in the same region.
Regarding phallotoxins, the volva (the ring) is the most poisonous.
The most important biochemical effect of amatoxins is the inhibition of RNA polymerases (especially polymerase II). This interaction leads to a tight complex and the inhibition is of a non-competitive type. Non-mammalian polymerases show little sensitivity to amanitins.
The amatoxins cause necrosis of the liver, also partly in the kidney, with the cellular changes causing the fragmentation and segregation of all nuclear components.
Amanita phalloides Taxonomy & Etymology
Amanita phalloides f. alba Britzelm is the white form of the death cap; but, as white specimens commonly occur alongside the more common form, most experts agree that this is merely a color variant of Amanita phalloides.
The phallic shape of a young death cap fruitbody, emerging from its volva, gave rise to its specific epithet phalloides.
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