An influx of cute and familiar mushrooms on Vancouver Island comes with a warning.
Fly Agaric mushrooms, also known as Amanita muscaria are the classic red toadstool with white warts seen in cartoons. The species grows in borreal forests during the fall across Canada and the United States, and are very common, but very poisonous.
“The Amanita family contains some of the most deadly mushrooms we know of,” said Brian Starzomski, director of the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. Starzomski added some of the Fly Agaric’s relatives include Amanita phalloides, better known as the Death Cap mushroom, and Aminita ocreata, the Destroying Angel.
While Fly Agarics aren’t always deadly, they can have devastating affects on people and pets, including hallucinations, sleepiness and severe gastrointestinal problems.
Surprisingly, unlike on TV the white warts on the mushrooms are not attached and can move around if prompted, which can be especially dangerous after a heavy rain could wash them off.
“Another edible species looks quite similar, especially when the warts are gone,” he said.
If seen, Starzomski said to avoid removing them unless they’re a direct danger to your pet or child, as they have a short life cycle and are an important part of the ecosystem.
Most importantly of all, he said, if you don’t know what a mushroom is, don’t touch it.
“There are so many species of mushrooms, and many of them are poisonous,” he said. “Always ask an expert when you’re not 100 per cent sure.”