Due to diversity of climate and plant communities, Oklahoma has a wide variety of mushrooms growing within its boundaries.
Mushrooms are found growing in lawns, pastures, forests, mulch of all type, tree stumps, living tress, and in such unusual locations as basements, plaster board walls and flower pots in homes and shipping centers.
Most mushrooms occur from spring to fall after rains, although they may be found year-round in protected locations if temperature and moisture are not limiting.
Although poisoning from ingesting mushrooms is not a common occurrence in Oklahoma, the appearance of mushrooms in lawns and landscapes after significant rain can pose a potential hazard if they are eaten, without verification of edibility. Of special concern are inexperienced mushroom collectors and small children eating mushrooms that occur in yards and natural areas.
There is no place for “experimentation” when it comes to mushrooms. There are no antidotes for poisonous mushrooms. Mushroom poisoning can vary from a minor upset stomach to a rather painful protracted death, depending upon the species of mushroom eaten, the amount eaten, and the person who has eaten it. Onset of symptoms may be delayed a day or more after ingestion. Some mushrooms are hallucinogenic. Small children, older people, and people with existing medical problems are most vulnerable to poisonous mushrooms.
Although most poisonous mushrooms must be eaten in quantity – a cup or more – to cause serious problems, Oklahoma is home to some mushrooms that potentially could cause death if only a single mushroom is eaten, such as the destroying angel, Amanita Virosa and the deadly Galerina, Galerina autumnalis. Some mushrooms, nontoxic under normal conditions, will have a toxic reaction if consumed with alcohol. Some persons may be allergic to certain types of edible mushrooms.
There is no safe rule-of-thumb to differentiate a poisonous from an edible mushroom. The color of the mushroom is useless. Some of the deadliest are white. Common folklore such as: a clove of garlic or a silver object turns black when cooked with a poisonous mushroom; removal of the “skin” from the cap of a poisonous mushroom will make it edible; mushrooms that animals eat are safe for humans, have no basis in fact and should be ignored.
Roger Williams is an agriculture educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.