Poisonous wild mushrooms are found growing across South Australia particularly after heavy rains in late summer to early winter when the earth is still warm. It isn’t possible to tell if a mushroom is toxic by its taste. Eating poisonous mushrooms can make a person very ill or even have life-threatening consequences.
There is no simple reliable test that shows which mushrooms are safe to eat. Even mushroom experts can have difficulty identifying some species. Mushrooms change their appearance depending on their growth stage so poisonous mushrooms can appear very similar and be easily mistaken for edible supermarket varieties.
We do not know the native fungi at all well, with only about 10-15% of the larger fungi described. There is a concern that people who have attended a local foraging tour may feel that they are now able to reliably recognise an edible mushroom species when foraging out on their own but ultimately misidentify poisonous mushrooms and risk their health.
Preventing poisoning from wild mushrooms
Things you can do to prevent poisoning from wild mushrooms:
Don’t pick and eat wild mushrooms.
Only eat mushrooms that have been purchased from a reliable greengrocer or supermarket.
Cooking, peeling, soaking or drying wild mushrooms does not remove or inactivate any poison to make them safe to eat.
Keep a close eye on young children and pets outdoors when mushrooms are most likely to be growing.
Talk to your families, friends and neighbours about the dangers of wild mushrooms.
Mushroom poisoning emergency
If you suspect a person has eaten a Death Cap mushroom, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest emergency department. Do not wait for symptoms to occur.
Anyone who becomes ill after eating a wild mushroom should seek urgent medical attention by going to the nearest emergency department or medical clinic.
If you suspect a person has eaten a wild mushroom, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 and they will advise if it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention.
Do not induce vomiting or give the person anything to drink unless advised by the Poisons Information Centre or another medical professional.
If possible, take a sample of the mushroom or a photo to help identify the species of mushroom.
Death Cap mushrooms (Amanita phalloides) are one of the most deadly mushrooms in the world, responsible for around 90% of all mushroom poisoning deaths. Four people have died in Australia after eating Death Cap mushrooms.
Death Cap mushrooms look similar to some harmless varieties.
The entire Death Cap mushroom is highly toxic and one mushroom can contain enough poison to kill an adult.
Death Cap mushrooms usually grow near established exotic deciduous hardwood trees - most commonly under oak trees.
Death Cap mushrooms are reported to grow, peel and taste just like a harmless field mushroom, and they are sometimes mistaken for edible Straw mushrooms used extensively in Asian cooking.
Symptoms of mushroom poisoning
Symptoms can be delayed by 6 to 24 hours after eating poisonous mushrooms. Severity depends on how much is eaten and symptoms may last for 2 to 3 days. Symptoms include:
violent stomach cramps
Gastrointestinal symptoms associated with eating Death Cap mushrooms can appear to resolve after 2 to 4 days but toxic damage to the liver continues and causes death up to two weeks after ingestion. There is no complete antidote for Death Cap mushroom poisoning and survival depends on early diagnosis and treatment.
Who is most at risk?
Anyone who has consumed a wild mushroom is at risk of potential life-threatening illness.
Young children: between 60 to 70% of calls about mushroom poisoning made by South Australians to the Poisons Information Centre involve children under five years of age. At this age, it is a natural behaviour for toddlers to put things in their mouths and eat plant matter. Most young children who eat poisonous mushrooms find them in the garden at home.
Cooking enthusiasts: foraging for wild food is becoming increasingly popular in Australia and is promoted heavily by culinary experts in the media and on television cooking programs. But when people gather wild mushrooms they can accidentally include toxic species.
New Asian migrants and international students may accidentally pick Death Cap mushrooms if they mistake them for edible Straw [paddy] mushrooms - the Straw mushroom grows and is eaten throughout Asia but does not grow naturally in Australia.
Overseas visitors from countries in the Northern Hemisphere where gathering mushrooms is an established cultural activity.
Pets: there have been a number of cases reported in South Australia of dogs that have been poisoned and died from acute liver failure after eating poisonous mushrooms in backyards and when out on walks. While cats tend to be more discerning about what they eat they are still at risk - particularly inquisitive kittens that might chew on a toxic species.
You can search through to find related information.
Mushroom poisoning fact sheet
PDF 300 KB
Emergency departments are for emergencies
Is it really an emergency? Consider the best health care option for you before visiting an Emergency Department.
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.