Wild Mushroom Warning: The Scaber Stalks (Leccinum species) May No Longer Be Considered Safe

The potentially toxic Leccinum atrostipitatum (left) alongside the Edible Boletus edulis (right).

The potentially toxic Leccinum atrostipitatum (left) alongside the Edible Boletus edulis (right).

One of the nifty things about mycology (the study of mushrooms) is that the field is still largely unexplored, new finds and findings turn up all the time. This is a less-nifty thing about mycophagy (the eating of mushrooms, particularly wild mushrooms). It too is still largely unexplored, and new information about bad reactions turns up — not all the time, but frequently enough. Here’s the latest from our resident mushroom expert.

LECCINUM ALERT

by Bill Bakaitis

On July 14th, I received a call from New England Poison Control Center at Maine Medical center. An elderly  man was in a New Hampshire Hospital with a severe, life threatening, illness contracted after eating Mushrooms. No specimens were available for imaging, but there were only two mushrooms involved, both Boletes. One was described as a ‘King Mushroom’, possibly in the Boletus edulis complex. The other was probably a Leccinum. Both identities were initially determined by two of the mushroom eaters, all of whom were self described as “good, knowledgeable mushroom collectors”

Two of the three people who collected and ate the mushroom developed GI symptoms three to five hours after the meal. One of them, an adult woman, sought treatment at the emergency room for her distress that evening.  The elderly man, developed GI symptoms somewhat later, did not go to the hospital and felt a general malaise the next day. The third person, an adult man,  had no symptoms at all.

Three days after the meal the  older man was admitted to the hospital in poor condition.

Among other symptoms was a very low platelet count which led to the leakage of blood throughout the body. His skin was covered with bruises. He was bleeding from the brain and various internal organs. In addition he had very low sodium levels. Surprisingly, there was no liver damage.

Due to the severe and odd symptoms, a multi-person conference call was initiated, and Marilyn Shaw, who has considerable experience with Leccinum poisonings, was invited to participate, along with a MMC’s Toxicologist, the attending Physician, and MMC’s poison control specialist. . Members of the family were interviewed over the phone and their initial identifications of the mushrooms were accepted/confirmed as appropriate. The conclusion reached was that it was probably the Leccinum which had inititated the cascade of events leading to the man’s critical condition.

Leccinum have traditionally been described as one of the Boletes safe to eat, but this case illustrates a growing concern for this group. Toxic reactions are known/thought to have been caused by Leccinum (Tylopilus) eximius, L. atrostipitatum, L. aurantiacum, L. scabrum/insigne.

Leccinum scabrum

Leccinum insigne

Recently, the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center has noticed a great many cases of GI distres caused by members of the Leccinum scabrum/insigne group. (see Lincoff. Audubon Guide to Wild Mushrooms,  p. 579)

Many field guides describe these as edible, but in light of the growing number of cases involved, many of us who work with poison control across the nation are now advising mushroom collectors to avoid the Leccinum group when collecting for the table. They are a notoriously difficult group of mushrooms to identify.

I will be preparing an illustrated lecture on this topic for the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association but thought this warning should be circulated now at the height of the collecting season.

Leccinum aurantiacum

Leccinum aurantiacum

Within the past decade or so the orange-capped Leccinum aurantiacum has been reported to often cause Gastro-Intestinal distress. Its flesh will slowly bruise wine-red, then gray to purple-black. (see  Lincoff, p. 577)  This one was found at a NEMF Foray,  identified by trained mycologists and displayed for attendees to learn from.

Tylopilus eximius

Tylopilus eximius

Tylopilus (Leccinum) eximius can also cause severe Gastro-Intestinal distress.

Update: Bill’s follow up article for consulting mycologists and the scientifically inclined has now been posted on Dianna Smith’s Mycology website.

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28 Comments »

  • Bill Said,

    The North American Mycological Association publishes an annual summary of the toxic reactions reported to them. See http://www.namyco.org/toxicology/index.html for the full reports.

    The following is from 2007:

    “Marilyn Shaw also reported a number of adverse reactions to Leccinum species, including Leccinum insigne. She has now seen enough of the cases to realize that this is another species with delayed onset of symptoms — typically about 6 hours. The symptoms are gastro intestinal distress which can be severe. In one incident, several individuals at a mushroom foray became ill after the formal mushroom tasting event. One person at the event initially thought that the culprit dish (of about 15 dishes served) was the Russula xerampelina that may have had a toxic Russula mixed in that would cause significant gastric distress — but later agreed that the delayed onset pointed elsewhere. There was also a dish containing Leccinum species and the timing of the onset of symptoms in the five known victims pointed Marilyn Shaw clearly in the direction of the dish with “Orange Aspen Boletes,” in short, Leccinum.”

  • Bill Said,

    The following comments got lost in the transition to the new web page: They have been retreived from Google’e cache.

    Cheryl Wyatt Said,
    July 22, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    You have a lot of nerve creating fear mongering by taking a bit of information with little or no basis and filling it in with exerps from here and there – all unrelated. Most mushroom collectors know that the skin can be the leading cause of GI in some, not ALL Boletes (mostly suillus). I have been eating scaber stalks since i was TWO YEARS OLD. You would do better to do a study on ASPIRIN and those facts wouold shock you. next time you want to print this kind of tripe I suggest you do a ‘controlled study’ first, although this can be ‘controlled’ too.
    Signed; Disgusted and disappointed

    Bill Said,
    July 23, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Hi Cheryl,

    If you have been eating Leccinum for years, I can see how you can be concerned that one of your favorite foods is acquiring a bad reputation.

    Indeed not all people are affected, and not all Leccinum appear to cause illness. Finding specific toxins in cases like this is a bit like trying to diagnose the problems in cars that sometimes won’t start. It is difficult, but most of us want our cars to start reliably and most of us who collect mushrooms for the table want to maximize our pleasure and minimize the chances of becoming ill.

    The record is clear that there have been a number of cases of Leccinum GI poisonings recently reported. The North American Mycological Association keeps records of cases they know about. Not all cases are reported, of course, only about 10% are, but of those which are 3.5% of all toxic reactions have been attributed to Leccinum.

    Before NAMA’s involvement in about 90% of the toxic mushroom cases reported by the medical community to the larger Toxic Exposure Surveillance System, the mushrooms went unidentified. With NAMA’s involvement the unidentified rate has fallen to somewhere between 10% to 30%. This increased expertise has allowed the mycological and medical communities to expand their knowledge of the safe and unsafe mushrooms and to center in on the toxins with a higher degree of refinement. One of the benefits to collectors like you and me is that newer texts and field guides are able to carry the latest findings. I can assure you that the reports of poison control specialists are discussed at length at the mushroom and medical conferences we attend.

    As a long-time mushroom collecter I am sure you know that not all cases of illness or toxicity are reported. Not everyone who has a tummy ache goes to see a doctor. Some are too freightened to go, some too proud, and some quietly assume the bad experience as part of the normal experience of eating mushrooms. I know one person who even thinks that a good cathartic experience now and then is good for the system, if not for the soul.

    If as a collector you have kept up with the literature, I am sure you have noticed many other mushrooms that once were reported as universally safe and edible now carry warnings. Tricholoma flavovirens (Man on Horseback), for example, is now known to cause a condition known as rhabdomyolysis which leads to kidney failure, but only in Europe so far. Pleurocybella porrigens (Angel’s Wings) has caused brain lesions leading to death among immunocompromised patients in Japan. Some collections of Gyromitra species (Lorchels or Elephant Ears) contain deadly toxins on the east Coast, but apparently not in the West. And so on.

    I am working on a rather extensive article related to the Leccinum case which will be posted on a mycological site in the near future. When it is ready, I will place a link to the article here.

    In the meantime, I hope you have a good collecting season. If you are a member of a local mycological association you might wish to discuss the state of recent understandings with other members or ask for speakers on this topic. If you are not a member, you might wish to join. One of the benefits is that you’re likely to get to know many mushrooms that taste better than Leccinum and fruit in the same locations at the same time.

    Bill

    leslie Said,
    July 23, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Hi Cheryl,

    I owe you – and any other new readers – an apology, for not remembering to include a link to the brief (very partial) list of Bill’s credentials in mycology. It’s in the introduction to his first post here, on collecting morels. He will soon have a bio page on the site that describes in much more detail his long experience, both personal and academic, with the wonderful world of wild mushrooms.

    Jeffery Mickelson Said,
    July 27, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

    I also have been eating leccinums for over 10 years without any problems. I lived in the Yukon for 7 years foraging in the poplar/birch forests up there. This is shocking news. I don’t think it will change my mind for consumption but I would like to find out more about your study.
    Jeffery

    Bill Said,
    July 28, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    Hi Jeffrey,

    It is nice to see that Leslie has readers in Alaska. I have never been there and obviously would not offer any opinion about your mushrooms. As a poison control mushroom consultant I only feel qualified to handle calls in my home territory – the Northeast.

    As you probably know there is considerable variation in mushrooms both geographically and as a function of ecological factors. Many of the mushrooms in America were given names of European mushrooms, once thought to be present here which we now know are probably much more limited in their distribution.

    One of the best comprehensive studies underway is that conducted by Rod Tulloss on the genus Amanita. http://eticomm.net/~ret/amanita/mainaman.html#continue .If you look at his work you will see that many of the Amanita are being shuffled around with new names, etc. I know this is not the question you asked, but I offer it as the type of study that is underway in mycology today.

    As to Alaskan Leccinum; As you probably know Leccinum have mycorrhizal associates and the types of trees under which they grow are often important for identification. Many understory shrubs and small ‘trees’ such as the dwarf willow present in tundra are also capable of hosting mycorrhizal fungi, so they probably also need to be considered in the description of the host/ecological associations for Leccinum. Being so close to the land bridge that once connected Asia and North America, I would be willing to bet that many of your mushrooms probably came from Asia. Your local mushroom experts would have a much better handle on your species than I. Here is a bit more about the status of toxic Leccinum in the lower 48.

    Smith and Thiers (The Boletes of Michigan) devote nearly 100 pages (p126-220) to an ‘incomplete’ treatment of over 80 species and varieties of Leccinum which are often separated by staining characteristics –with and w/out reagents-, tree hosts associations, cap stipe and pore coloration, and a number of microscopic characteristics.

    Michael Kuo http://www.mushroomexpert.com/leccinum.html lists @ 125 species, varieties, and forms of Leccinum, and is probably the most easily accessible ’study’ of the Genus available to those of us with computers and a more than casual interest in mushrooms.

    Within this bewildering array of species within the genus, the orange capped varieties were among the first to be associated with Gastro – intestinal distress. Marilyn Shaw of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center on Colorado, who collaborated on the case I first reported, offers the following two citations

    From mykoweb.com
    Toxic Fungi of Western North America by Thomas J. Duffy, MD
    http://www.mykoweb.com/TFWNA/P-52.html

    Another genus that may cause GI upsets is Leccinum, a member of the family Boletaceae (boletes) that has scaly stipes and is most commonly found under birch. Although most cases of reported Leccinum toxicity come from Colorado, this fact is likely an artifact of active reporting and the fact that Colorado has so much Leccinum in association with birch. Most problems appear to be with poorly cooked or raw Leccinum. Dr. Dennis Desjardin and Marilyn Shaw believe that, as in the blue-staining Boletus, there may be a GI irritant present at very low levels. (91)
    (Marilyn further notes …. the association is with aspen in Colo. We don’t have much birch. MHS)

    ___________________________________________________________________
    A comment regarding a posting about “boletes” on “Steelheader” webpage from Michael Kuo, 11-5-05.
    He used to have a similar statement on his own webpage, but I don’t find it there any more.

    “Avoid Orange-Capped Leccinum Species

    Leccinum includes some very good edibles, but the record is becoming more and more clear: some people are adversely affected by some of the orange-capped species. Marilyn Shaw has documented this in Colorado (see Bessette, 2000, 374), and some field guides will mention the possibility. I know from personal experience; I am one of the “some people” adversely affected–and I can tell you that the poisoning is not at all how you want to spend one or two days of your life!

    There are many Leccinum mushrooms with orange caps. But since Leccinum species are notoriously difficult to separate, even for experts, you should avoid any orange-capped species. If you are not sure you can distinguish Leccinum species from other boletes, you should change this rule and not eat any boletes with orange or orangeish caps.”
    ___________________________________________________________________

    As I have previously noted in this thread, GI illness has since been reported with other Leccinum as well. All of which does not necessarily mean that as individual collectors you must not collect and eat Leccinum. Many people in the US get struck by Lightning every year, yet that did not stop me last night from casting my fly rod about in the outflow of a river as lightning played about in the nearby ocean, islands, and bays. I mean the stage of the tide, the approaching dusk-into-darkness, the presence of bait fish were right and only occur five or six times a season. One calculates risks in life, as anyone who lives in Alaska must know.

    Good collecting and happy eating from your garden, field, and stream. Wish I could join you!

    Bill

  • Bill Said,

    Readers of this article may also wish to consult the developing (mid-August ’09) story as it reates to the original case at http://web.mac.com/diannasmith1/FUNGIPHOTOS/BILL_BAKAITIS_Articles/Entries/2009/8/17_DIAGNOSIS_AT_A_DISTANCE__Issues_raised_by_a_recent_case_involving_GI_Distress_and_life_threatening_symptoms_attributed_to_edible_mushrooms..html

    Much of the discussion is now centering upon the terrible effects of eating just a spoonfull of Boletus huronensis, a ‘King Mushroom’look-alike. It is edible to some but apparently quite devastating to others.

  • Renee Said,

    I actually hav a question. I found a shroom in my yard. It is about a finger in shape and about 3-4in tall the base of the shroom is white about half way up then turns orange wtth a white tip then green slim on it. Anyone know what it is?

    • Leslie Said,

      Hi Renee,

      Bill is out right now, but when he’s back I’ll ask him to take a look at your question. In the meantime you might want to google Mutinus elegans and see if the images look familiar. Whatever it is, it’s almost surely ( never say “surely” over the internet!) a stinkhorn, aka member of the family Phallaceae. There are several genera and species but as far as I know all of them resemble the family name to one degree or another.

  • Bill Said,

    Hi Renee,

    I agree that your description fits one of the smaller stinkhorns, most likely Mutinus caninus or M. elegans. The minor difference between the two has to do with the line of demarcation between the slimy spore mass, and the naked stalk, when young. (Caninus has a cleaner line of demarcation than elegans) In time the entire stalk of both species will be totally clean as flies come to eat the smelly spore mass. As they do this and fly off they also disseminate the spores.

    These smaller stinkhorns are often called ‘dog phallus’ stinkhorns. Some larger stinkhorns resemble the human phallus -Phallus impudicus and P. ravenelii are two. I have read that young ladies of the Victorian era were forbidden to see these mushrooms.

    If you collect them you will be forbidden to bring them home, not because of their morphology, but because of the odor, which fortunately you can’t Google! Some, like Pseudocolus shellenbergiae, have quite interesting shapes.

    I think they are more common in our southern states than the Northeast. They were quite common in and around Baton Rouge Louisiana when I collected there in their ‘winter’.

    Some winter: It was hard for this northerner to process air conditioners running 24/7 on New Years Eve.

    Bill

  • Mat Bolete Said,

    Hello Bill,
    I live in Chugiak Alaska and my yard is full of mushrooms this year. I can stand in one spot and count 7 different kinds of mushrooms. Ok to the point now. I heard the the Bolete family is pretty safe to eat here. I have sampled one which I believe to be the Birch Bolete. I have found another type of Bolete and it has a domed top that is black and white. The mushroom is fresh. I walked that part of the yard two days ago and it was not there and then tonight POOF there it is. I am wondering if this is edible. I can send pictures. I also want to know if there is a better book than Harriette Parkers “Alaskan Mushroom Guide”. Something a little more detailed. There are only three Boletes in her book and they are all edible. Does that mean there are No poisonous or bad for me Boletes here in Alaska. I would appreciate any help you can give so that next year I am more confident to cook these wonderful mushrooms for dinner.
    Thank you very very much for any info you can give this new mushroom student. They are pretty as well delicious.

    Your humble but hungry student,
    Mat

  • Bill Said,

    Hi Mat,

    Welcome to the blog.

    If you go back a few comments to one from Jeff, you will see that I have no knowledge of or expertise in Alaskan Mushrooms. There is considerable variation between collections from areas which are only fifty miles or less apart. I can only offer opinions about Northeastern Mushrooms, and then, perhaps not so well.

    I think your best bet would be to ask local mushroom collectors about their experiences. If you go to http://www.namyco.org/clubs/index.html you will find the contact information for an Alaskan Mushroom Club. If they are too far off you could still ask them if they know anyone near to you. I think I would also try a local college or university. And if all else fails, try doing some internet searches for local groups or individuals interested in Mushrooming and Natural History.

    Your comment does raise another interesting question, however. I have no knowledge of the Field Guide you mention, but I do know that any Field Guide, no matter how good, can never list all of the mushrooms you are likely to encounter. Generally the author will key out, photograph, or describe a few that S/He knows well. Others are omitted, never mentioned, and the casual reader and collector is often led to believe that the few that lie on the pages of their newly acquired book is all there are.

    Here are three examples. The first involves Lactarius, the ‘milk mushrooms’ which will produce latex when their flesh is injured. In 1976 L.R. Hessler and A. H. Smith published their monograph on Lactarius. (A monograph is a study of just one genus, in this case Lactarius). They described over 200 different species and an additional 60 varieties in this study. Hessler’s work was largely in the Appalachian mountains of the east coast. Smith’s was in Michigan. Recently (2003) Bill Roody published a Field Guide covering the same region from which Hessler worked. It is a very fine field guide, but illustrates only 28 Lactarius species.

    Here is a second example: You are interested in Boletes and have eaten the “Birch Bolete”, which I assume is a species of Leccinum. The best non-technical book on Boletes to date is probably Bessette, Roody, and Bessette’s North American Boletes. Of the one hundred or so species of Leccinum commonly assumed to be found in North America, they illustrate 45 which they think can be determined by Field Characteristics alone. On the internet, Michael Kuo lists @ 120 species of Leccinum, which is just one part of the larger group known as Boletes. http://www.mushroomexpert.com/leccinum.html

    Here is a third example concerning Amanita: Most field guides might describe a half dozen species of Amanita. Jenkins’ 1986 monograph Amanita of North America describes over 125 species, a number which has been greatly expanded by Rod Tulloss. His current counter lists 517 worldwide. http://eticomm.net/~ret/amanita/mainaman.html#continue

    The North American Mycological Association has a list of recommended books at http://www.namyco.org/education/refbooks.html. You might wish to have a look at some of them, either on line, at your local library, if you can’t afford the purchase price.

    Your best bet though is to join with a local Mycological Association.

    Until you can be 100% certain of the mushroom you have collected, it is best to let it go. “When in doubt, throw it out” is a popular refrain among mushroom collectors. We have posted a guide to the safe consumption of wild mushrooms elsewhere on this site. http://leslieland.com/blog/2009/07/the-long-lived-wild-mushroom-eaters-golden-rules-2/

    I generally follow a new species for a year or two, so I can really get to know it, before I commit it to the test of my gut. In the meantime, try eating carrots: they taste pretty good and are said to be good for your eyesight, which you will need when your mushrooming moves beyond the casual stage.

    Good Luck
    Bill

  • ahmed shiedeed Said,

    hi , i am ahmed shiedeed i work on medicinal mushroom in egypt in its biopharamceutical use i want to connect me with an specialist in mushroom .

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hello Ahmed,

    Thank you for your request. It is not everyday that we get to correspond with an Egyptian Medical Mycologist.

    In America mycologists tend to specialize and it is often important to know the Genus and species of fungi to get connected to the appropriate specialist.

    I do have two suggestions, however. If you are interested in cutting edge research on pharmacological properties of fungi, try writing to Ed Mena at eemena@aol.com He is connected with the University of Connecticut in Groton Ct. and runs a laboratory which processes large quantities of fungi from several genera attempting to isolate compounds of pharmacological interest. I know he has worked with Tricholoma, Stropharia, Hygrophorus, Leotia, Russula, Boletus, Leccinum, Agaricus, Collybia, Amanita and Paxillus, among others. He would be in a position to put you in touch with someone who has an interest in the same area of research that you are interested in.

    For a more general approach to medicinal mushrooms you might try contacting Paul Stamets at Fungi Perfecti (www.fungi.com) the author of several books on the subject or Greg Marley (mushroom@midcoast.com), who has recently published a book titled Mushrooms For Health: Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Mushrooms with a seven page bibliography of references.

    And of course, there is the internet in general. Google Scholar Search should be able to locate mycologists and medical teams who share your research interests.

    Good Luck!

  • Katharine Said,

    Hello, Bill.

    Your site is very informative and the keys are great. However, they don’t go so far as the Leccinum I found today, for reasons which I well understand, having read some of your linked articles on the subject.

    I live in the UK and have eaten several varieties of boletes and other fungi in Europe. (As you know, the attitudes towards fungi as food are more assured in Europe than in the US, at least regarding the commoner species.) I’m interested by your comments about orange-capped leccinum now being identified as potential sources of GI upset in some individuals in the US. Where can I find out similar information about boletes and leccinum for Europe and the UK?

    The boletes I found today I identified with (what I thought was) great certainty in Rogers as Leccinum duriusculum — the size, location, season, colour and texture of the scabres, variation in stem colour, pale creamy tubes, pale spores, lack of discoloration of the tubes on bruising and cutting, grey discoloration at the top of the stem, bluish/brownish flushes in the stem etc … along with the fact that the seven specimens I collected didn’t fit any other of the boletes described and pictured. So certain was I that I promptly ate two of them fried in butter with a little garlic and soy. (Tasty.)

    I’ll let you know how things go!

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hi Katharine,

    It seems as though you do know a good deal about mushrooming, and certainly much more about European species than do I. Since you are familiar with the work of Roger Phillips, I would suggest that you direct your question to him. (As you might know, he and Leslie have collaborated both on a book and TV series in the past. He and I have also collected together in America, and from both of these experiences Leslie and I have come to know him as a very trustworthy source of mycological information.

    You might also try Geoffrey Kibbey, who has also done considerable work in mycology both here in the US and in Great Britain. (https://www.westdean.org.uk/CollegeChannel/Tutors/TutorProfilesandWork/GeoffreyKibby.aspx)
    And then there is the wonderful set of mycologists at Kew Gardens http://www.kew.org/science/mycolstaff.html

    Of them all, Roger would enjoy your butter, garlic and soy trials the most: “De…Lis..I..Ous!!!” He would say, and could probably say it in Latin as well.
    Enjoy.

  • Katharine Said,

    Dear Bill,

    Thank you for your fast and kind reply. I’m not a highly knowledgable mushroomer by any means but I do like eating wild foods and am very grateful for the amount of published expertise available on fungi.

    Re my question about European boletes: I’d fallen into the trap of thinking that because someone has published an authoritative paper book, they don’t exist as a real person … I am delighted to think of getting in touch with Roger Phillips himself about English varieties. And the best Latin seasonings thereof :-)Thank you very much for the recommendation, and the links for Kew and Geoffrey Kibbey. Much appreciated.

    PS: Possibly for the benefit of anyone else lucky enough to find some: the Leccinum duriusculum have produced no adverse reactions in 30-odd hours.

  • carlton berry Said,

    i’m not a mycologist, but i have studied the fungi in and around Millinocket, ME for over 20 years. today i picked about a pound of leccinum of some variety growing under a poplar tree, which appeared exactly like the image of the insigne species above. the interior flesh was white, bruising light brown, and the tubes were white, bruising a strange light mauve, purplish brown color. i’ve eaten these mushrooms for years, so it was with a sense of disbelief and alarm that i read this post, and are now feeling strange, and my guts are turning. i know even with the years i have studied, collected and experimented i still don’t have adequate knowledge of the field of mycology. until today i felt confident in my knowledge of this small area’s wild fungi. i’ve had the privilege of finding some of the finest, most elegant mushrooms, surpassing anything i have seen in field guides. i do not know if any of the advisories in the rocky mountains or the western part of the country would be applicable in my area, but any information you may have would be most appreciated.

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hi Carlton,

    My sympathies. It is worrying to suddenly find new information on mushroom toxicity that contradicts previous analyses. But if you have personally been collecting and eating these mushrooms for years, and are sure these are the same as the ones safely eaten by you in the past, then even if you don’t know the Latin name chances are overwhelming that they are safe for you to eat again. There is a small probability that your biology has changed and you could develop an allergic reaction to any previously safe food: milk, wheat, peanuts, shrimp, etc. are examples of this developed allergy; bee stings are another. But this is only a remote possibility.

    It is also important to realize that the case in which the death occurred was compounded by many other factors. I am not sure, nor were any of the other professionals involved, that the Leccinum was the cause.

    A link to very long discussion of the case with various possible and competing hypotheses concerning the toxicity of fungi and ’cause’ of death appears above in the August 19, 2009 comment.

    For rules concerning the eating of mushrooms new to you, see http://leslieland.com/blog/2009/07/the-long-lived-wild-mushroom-eaters-golden-rules-2/ elsewhere on this site.

  • carlton berry Said,

    thank you for your reply and the link. i experienced mild gastric upset but am otherwise fine. this was the first time i have eaten boletes which grew under a poplar tree, so i was concerned about any potential toxicity. i’m still fairly confident in my judgement but this has renewed my caution. for now i’ll stick with the giant puffballs which are currently popping up by the dozen, and i’ll probably avoid the leccinum in the future.

  • Kirstin Said,

    Bill, love to read your info….I’m not a mycologist but I do love mushrooms since childhood in Germany going with my Grandma…..
    I’m now living west of Seattle in the Kitsap peninsula and enjoy finding and eating here.
    Just yesterday I collected on my “spot” a bowl full of what ” I ‘m sure are ” leccinum scabrum……growing on a meadow under Birch trees…….
    I ate them before and want to do so in the future…..I and my fam. had no signs of anything gastric.
    Do you think it save? Are there any infos regarding under what tree the the “bad” ones grew? And area wise, do you have infos from around here about any cases of gastric upset?
    I’m a member of our local mycological club and would inform all the others of your infos!
    Thanks so much,
    Kirstin

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hi Kristin,

    Thanks for your comments.

    For specific information about mushrooms in your area you might try a local expert. Try Joseph Ammirati. He is at the University of Washington in Seattle. His email is cort@u.washington.edu. Your local mycological association will also have contacts for others and the NAMA speakers bureau may also be useful..

    The local flora can change dramatically over even a few miles. My own experience is limited to a few areas of the northeast and I would not hazard a guess about your species.

    My guess though, is that if you have been eating these Leccinum for years, you can continue to eat them safely.

    good luck

    Bill Bakaitis

  • been eating podosinoviki/podberesoviki (Leccinum) all my life and now my two toddlers are eating them with no problems both in North/west russia (st.petersburg) and in boulder colorado.

  • mycol Said,

    JUst a note…wonderful to read some competent myco dialogue! I am another amateur mycophiliac in N. Florida. I have been eating the Tricholoma Flavovirens down now twice in the winter from the same spot and have eatin them with gluttony and shared with others…no ill effects.

    Welcome Michael,
    Happy to have you joining us in the myco dialog. We hope you will keep visiting, so Bill sent this response:
    ” You might want to reconsider including gluttonous consumption of this mushroom in your diet this winter. Note the delay of this toxic reaction.
    Rhabdomyolysis. Mushrooms: Tricholoma equestre (=T. flavovirens), Russula subnigricans.

    Here is the current knowledge of T. flavovirens from the North American Mycological Association: http://www.namyco.org/toxicology/poison_syndromes.html

    Tricholoma flavovirens
    Toxicity from Tricholoma equestre has not been reported from the U.S. and some question whether or not it is dangerous, but consumption of massive quantities of this species in Europe have reportedly resulted in delayed kidney damage, delayed neurotoxicity, and breakdown of muscle fibers with release of myoglobin into the blood stream. The European cases of rhabdomyolysis are associated with respiratory and cardiac (myocarditis) complications leading to death. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. The rhabdomyolysis observed with Russula subnigricans in Japan and Taiwan occurs by a different mechanism than that observed with Tricholoma equestre.

  • Matthew Said,

    Was alcohol involved in any of the cases?

    Hello Michael,

    Thanks for your interest and welcome to the Blog.

    You ask a question as to whether alcohol was involved in “any of the cases” . Given the ubiquitous prevalence of alcohol in our society I am sure it was. A more precise way of asking this would be “Were there any systematic differences in the reactions of those who ate species X and also drank xx amount of alcohol/body weight compared with a similar group of those who also ate species X without consuming any alcohol,”

    This then becomes a meaningful question of toxicology/epidemiology and can be researched. Try Google or Google Scholar (Species X Alcohol) and then follow the links.

    If you go to the August 19, 2009 post (above) you will find a link to an extensive discussion exploring some of the possible reactions of the species which seem to be involved with the original case. Other species can be explored by going to NAMA’a Toxicology pages listed in the August 29 2011 post.

  • Trish Adams Said,

    I live near the Wind River Mts. in Wyoming and eat the Aspen Bolete – never any problem but what are your thoughts on the Aspen Bolete. Do you know of any mycologists in the Lander WY area, I find none nor is there a club.


    Hi Trish,

    I am glad you found our blog. The Wind River of Wyoming is certainly far afield for me (although I did pass through the area some 30 or 40 years ago on a fishing trip. Loved it) and I confess to not knowing Leccinum insigne as “The Aspen Bolete”, so I Googled ‘Aspen Bolete’ and found the following at Colorado Mushrooms, the first link offered by Google:
    The Rocky Mountain Poison Center received occasional reports of serious gastric problems, some requiring hospitalization, from eating moderate amounts of so-called orange caps, usually well cooked, found under aspen in various part of Colorado.

    There is believed to be a certain type of Leccinum that is getting people sick in Colorado. Eat at your own risk. I personally know people who eat them without any ill effects. Poisoning may be due to older specimens. It is unfortunate too since they are a very abundant mushroom.
    http://www.coloradomushrooms.com/mushroom.php?id=3

    Leslie and I do not eat any Leccinum, primarily because there are so many other and more tasty mushrooms which fruit at the same time here in the Northeast. I suspect that if your forest is primarily a monoculture of Aspen clones, then its mycorrhizal associates will predominate in your diet. My guess is that if you have been eating them for a while with no ill effects you can probably continue to do so safely in the future. The big concern, as I understand it, is that one can become suddenly sensitive (allergic?) to it, much as bee keepers become suddenly allergic to bee stings after decades of tolerance. And the other concern is that hidden amongst the ‘safe’ Aspen Boletes is a ‘cryptic species’ one which looks so much like the major species that it has yet to be segregated out by mycological sorting.

    You might try the Colorado Mycological Society http://www.cmsweb.org, the Pikes Peak Mycological Society http://pikespeakmushrooms.org/, the Southern Idaho Mycological Association, http://www.simykos.org, or the Southwest Montana Mycological Association, ccripps@montana.edu to see if they can direct you to a mycologist near to your home.

    Good luck, Bill

  • Trish Adams Said,

    Thank you Bill for the info regarding the Mycologist in Lander WY. I would love to run into Annie Proulx out foraging & if I do I’ll let you know.
    Again many thanks for getting back to me.
    I’m also a member of the Boston Mycological Club.
    Best
    Trish

  • Tsu Dho Nimh Said,

    These mushrooms may be like the fava bean, which is harmless to humans UNLESS they have the genetic mutation that causes G6PD deficiency.

    So it is quite possible that the indignant commenters have been eating these mushrooms with no problems and others are stricken with severe distress or even death.

  • Tyler Case Said,

    Good information. I’d heard of orange-capped varieties causing GI problems, but internal bleeding! I was wondering if any new information has come up regarding this topic. Thanks!
    Tyler (chickenmushrooms.com)

    Welcome Tyler, and thanks.

    I’ve sent your query along to Bill. He’s away for a bit but I’m sure will be interested in your question. Meanwhile, I hope other readers are interested too; maybe somebody else has been following this more closely than we have.

    Update: Bill is now back and had this to say:
    Hi Tyler,

    No, I have no new information about the toxic reactions attributed to species of red capped Leccinum. Marilyn Shaw of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center is probably the most knowledgeable person to ask about this as many, if not most, of these cases seem to occur in her neck of the woods. She also works closely with Dr. Michael Beug of the North American Mycological Association’s mushroom poison reporting center.

    You might try posing your question to Marilyn at Info@rmpdc.org.

    I assume you have tried a basic Google search of your question. If so, and you still come back empty handed try the Google scholar search http://scholar.google.com/ for a look at some of the more scholarly articles.

    Also, please remember that in this particular case, there were no mushrooms for us to identify. There were only the sometimes conflicting memories of three individuals who ate the two mushrooms which were ‘identified’ from their collected (and sometimes prompted) after the fact recall.

    The conditions suffered by the elderly person who subsequently died were quite real, but could have been completely unrelated to the mushrooms eaten, whatever they were, and in whatever amounts actually ingested by the three individuals. There is an assumption, that the “ID’s” were accurate, and that they were shared in equal amounts by the three adults. It is also an assumption that all three were in equally good health prior to the meal. These assumptions are just that, assumptions, and not a foundation for conclusive logical/scientific findings.

    To my mind, and at this late date and far remove, it seems to me the most likely scenario is that a gastrointestinal reaction either set into motion, or exacerbated an already ongoing physical deterioration in the elderly individual who decided to declined treatment for a few days in spite of experiencing these symptoms. An ever-increasing cascade of events then followed which led to irreparable consequences and death. I am not a doctor, but trained the philosophy of science, in this seems the most parsimonious assembly of the parameters involved.

    Hopes this helps,
    Bill

  • Tyler Case Said,

    Thanks for your assessment, Bill. I will look into it a bit more.

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