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Monday, June 8, 2009

Seven Deadly 'Shrooms

Fungi hunters and hikers beware, here are seven super toxic mushrooms to avoid

By Katherine Harmon

DON'T EAT ME: Some of the world's most toxic mushrooms look dangerously similar to those harvested for food--or recreation.

Mushrooms can be delicious, beautiful and even, well, "magical". But if tough times send you out to forage for food—beyond the nearest fast-food restaurant—be wary of some of nature's more toxic temptations.

Whether mistakenly—or maliciously—used, mushrooms have claimed the lives of many, including the Roman emperor, Claudius, who is rumored to have been poisoned by a mushroom dish administered by his wife. The death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, which prompted the war of Austrian Succession, may also have resulted from feasting on foul fungi.

Although some toxic mushrooms, such as the false morels (in the Gyromitra genus), are still prepared in traditional dishes, evidence is mounting that even in cooked form the meaty mushrooms aren't totally safe for consumption.

Even the deadliest mushrooms, including the aptly named death cap, are reported to taste pretty good, and symptoms often don't appear for hours. So as mycologists (mushroom scholars) everywhere warn: know your fungi. Otherwise you may be in for a nasty—if not fatal—case of mycetism (mushroom poisoning).

Nature photographer and author Taylor Lockwood shares photographs of some of the more deadly 'shrooms.

Slide Show: Seven Poisonous Mushrooms