In Australia Amanita phalloides known as the Death Cap has achieved almost legendary status and is rolled out almost yearly by the media for their annual ‘don’t eat wild mushrooms’ article. Something that is perhaps less know is that Amanita phalloides is just one member of a larger group of amanitas know as section phalloideae with well over 50 members world wide, some contain amatoxins like Amanita phalloides and are deadly poisonous while a few are actually edible! The rest are somewhere in the middle with more work needed to determine their toxicity. I have been wondering for a while now how many varieties from section phalloideae are found in Australia, then the other day I was introduced to one that has been fruiting at my local nature reserve.
Amanita marmorata is a deadly poisonous member of section phalloideae that I have recently become acquainted with. Its not a common mushroom though I have found it a couple of times over the years but it was not until I came upon a facebook ID request about it, when a well known Canadian mycologist IDed the fungi in question I clicked on his link and quickly joined the dots. He later confirmed my mushroom as a. marmorata. I found it growing under coastal Casuarina with which it forms a mycorrhizal relationship. They have been fruiting regularly for some weeks and as I walk past them quite often I stop to have a look or take a photo. I brought one home and went thru the macroscopic traits, apart from the smell not matching the description it seems a good match (the smell may change with age). They are described as having a strong smell while my collection had almost no smell. Growing just a few meters away were some edible white agaricus mushrooms so it was entirely possible that someone (me) could have picked them along with a death cap or two for my lunch, luckily I don’t really like those little agaricus and I am usually quite diligent in checking my collections. It really made me realize the importance of being able to discern the different mushrooms to genus. Particularly the rather distinct amanita genus. The two links above have good descriptions of this mushroom.
Eating death caps can lead to a rather drawn out and disturbing demise, if you make it through the first 48 hours a partial recovery may be made followed a few days later by kidney failure, sometimes the liver as well. Its estimated that just 30 grams of mushroom or 7mg of amatoxin is enough to kill an adult. Studies suggest the toxins are not absorbed through the skin so they can be safely handled without gloves, as can any other poisonous mushroom. I Have done a bit of research and so far, listed bellow, are the mushrooms from section Phalloideae that occur in Australia, this is not a full list and much more work can be done on Amanitas in Australia. There are also a number of deadly amanitas in south east Asia and china so its entirely possible that some of those occur here. For a full list of section Phalloideae follow this link. In Australia I can find only two that contain the deadly amatoxins.
Amanita phalloides Is know from Canberra south into SA and Tasmania, its an introduced species often associated with oak trees. Deadly poisonous.
Amanita neomurina known from NSW and Queensland no information on toxicity.
Amanita austrophalloides Only know from a single collection with no information on location or toxicity
Amanita eucalypti Is known from WA, no information on toxicity