These death cap mushrooms was found on a boulevard on Ripon Road in Uplands Sunday. Photo contributed by Adolf and Oluna Ceska

Deadly mushrooms found on Vancouver Island

Experts warn mushroom pickers to be careful as poisonous species spring up early this year

Natural Resources Canada (NRC) reminds people to remain vigilant when foraging for mushrooms, after a potentially fatal species was found in Greater Victoria this week.

Scientists have recorded the re-emergence of the death cap mushroom, which killed a three-year-old Victoria boy in October of last year and was the first recorded fatality from someone ingesting the mushroom in the province.

“The more people are aware of it, the less likelihood there’s an issue,” said NRC mycologist Brenda Callan. “Certainly, if you’ve got kids or pets, you may want to be more vigilant if you know they’re coming out at this time of year.”

The warning comes after retired mycologists, Adolf and Oluna Ceska, were out searching for mushrooms when they stumbled across “a good-sized number” of death cap mushrooms in a boulevard on Ripon Road in Uplands on Sunday.

The mushrooms, which grow in urban areas in Victoria and were first introduced on the root systems of non-native trees, tend to spring up in fall following the first rains. They have emerged earlier this year, likely because they were in a well-irrigated area, Callan noted.

Death cap mushrooms are mainly white, with a white or yellowish stem, a cap that ranges from yellowish-green to light brown.

There are other species of poisonous fungi in the region that people should watch out for. Callan pointed to Amanita smithiana, also known as Smith’s amanita mushroom, which grows naturally in forests and is sometimes mistaken by pickers for the pine mushroom.

“That one is unpleasant and it causes kidney failure,” she said.

While there are some poisonous mushrooms, most are harmless, said Callan. Residents interested in learning how to identify and pick edible mushrooms are encouraged to join expert groups such as the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society, she added.

Anyone who believes they’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom is urged to call the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or call 911.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com