Answering questions about the identity, edibility, or toxic content of fungi --- email mycosATshawDOTca

(35+ yrs. experience)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Carnivorous Fungi from Cretaceous Amber

Carnivorous Fungi from Cretaceous Amber

Alexander R. Schmidt,1* Heinrich Dörfelt,2 Vincent Perrichot1

Carnivorous fungi dating back to the age of the dinosaurs have been found fossilized in circa-100-million-year-old amber. The fossil fungi used hyphal rings as trapping devices and are preserved together with their prey, small nematodes. The excellent preservation in amber allowed comparison with extant groups: On the basis of the mode of ring formation and the dimorphic mode of life, the fossils cannot be assigned to any recent carnivorous fungus, providing evidence that different groups occupied this ecological niche in the Cretaceous and that trapping devices were developed independently multiple times in the course of Earth history.

1 Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany.
2 Martin-Luther-Universität Halle, Institut für Geobotanik und Botanischer Garten, Neuwerk 21, 06108 Halle/Saale, Germany.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

An early use of "Destroying Angel" in American History


"Destroying Angels," as I understand it, are Latter-Day Saints who are set apart by the Church to conduct permanent disappearances of obnoxious citizens. I had heard a deal about these Mormon Destroying Angels and the dark and bloody deeds they had done, and when I entered this one's house I had my shudder all ready.
But alas for all our romances, he was nothing but a loud, profane, offensive, old blackguard! He was murderous enough, possibly, to fill the bill of a Destroyer, but would you have any kind of an Angel devoid of dignity? Could you abide an Angel in an unclean shirt and no suspenders? Could you respect an Angel with a horse-laugh and a swagger like a buccaneer?

From Twain's "Roughing It" circa 1982

Monday, October 22, 2007

Knowledge (of nature arrived at through reason) shall set you free

 "Know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

I found an extremely interesting opinion of what this may actually have meant among early Christian gnostics that seems a show a massive change in doctrine, here being illustrated by none other than Clement of Alexandria. The "truth", according to his description of the mysteries that lay at the heart of religious thought itself "was arrived at through the understanding of nature using reason." This stands in complete contrast to the way modern Christian fundamentalists look at evolution and other sciences

"When we have fully realized our plans with respect to these notes [i.e., the Stromateis], in which, if the spirit wills, we will attend to the pressing need—for indeed it is vital, before coming to the truth, to lay out that which must be said as preamble—we shall move on to the true gnostic science of nature [γνωστικὴ φυσιολογία],16 having been initiated into the lesser mysteries before the great [τὰ μικρὰ πρὸ τῶν μεγάλων μυηθέντες μυστηρίων], so that nothing will be in the way of the true revelation of divine mysteries [ἱεροφαντίᾳ], our having completed the preliminary purifications and explanations of the things needing to be passed on and communicated."

Thus, the science of nature according to the canon of the truth of the gnostic tradition, which is to say, the epopteia, begins with cosmogony and ascends from there to the department of theology [τὸ θεολογικὸν εἶδος].

"Accordingly, we shall make the book Genesis written by the prophet our starting point for this account of the tradition, exposing in due course the doctrines of the heterodox and endeavoring as much as possible to refute them. But all of that will be written according to divine will and inspiration. For the time being, it is necessary to turn to the subject at hand and to finish the account of ethics". (Strom.–4)

This passage distinguishes the great mysteries from preliminary matters of instruction in ethics, called the lesser mysteries. The greater mysteries involve the rational study of nature, which is founded on cosmogony and culminates in theology. The result of this study is epopteia, the name given to the highest degree of revelation experienced by initiates in the Eleusinian mysteries.

In short, spending the day in Church having the world divided into "good and evil" "right and wrong" is the lesser concept of religious inquiry or theological training and thought. Science, a thorough understanding of the natural world arrived at through reason...not faith! --- is a the way to understanding the Truth, and natural history is the way through which one arrives at theological Truth.

It appears quite clear from this that somehow the Church teachings that came later from Rome must have twisted the meaning of the words, perhaps so as to not be guilty of changing the Gospels literal words, but by changing the "Words" definitions.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

2005 Mushroom Toxicology Committee Report

2005 Toxicology Committee Report

Compiled by Michael W. Beug, Ph.D.,Toxicology Committee Chair

After a busy 2004 season with many mushroom poisonings, 2005 was a relief. We received a total of 46 reports involving 67 humans and 16 reports involving 23 dogs. I want to thank everyone who sent in reports, especially Marilyn Shaw who submitted 25 of the 62 reports.

Several dogs died in the past year due to mushroom poisoning but there were no human fatalities reported where in the final analysis mushrooms appeared to be at fault. A number of calls to poison centers came from parents whose child had mushrooms in his/her mouth or had been seen eating a mushroom. Most of these cases were asymptomatic. A few calls came in where someone ate mushrooms and then suffered a panic attack from concern that they may have made an error. It is best to confirm your identification before eating the mushroom!

There were a few first time or otherwise unique inquiries regarding mushroom poisoning. An email was forwarded to me from a person in Oregon who was concerned about a woman at a workshop who consumed a Cortinarius in the subgenus Dermocybe. She was asymptomatic but there was concern about symptoms showing up later. Orellanine poisoning is characterized by a delayed onset of 2 to 21 days and the symptoms are headache, GI distress, sweating, lethargy, anorexia, marked polyurua and polydypsia with ultimate evidence of progressive kidney failure, oliguria and anuria. However, there are no cases of orellanine poisoning ever recorded in North America, though since 1952 in Europe it has been a recognized poisoning cause when an astute Polish epidemiologist traced 102 serious poisonings and 11 deaths to consumption of certain Cortinarius species. There is still debate about what causes the orellanine poisoning but all investigators agree that the chemicals show a very strong turquoise or blue fluorescence under ultraviolet light and the fluorescence can be demonstrated not only in the mushrooms but in biopsy tissues.

A second intriguing case involved a notification of a human death from ingestion of a Gyromitra species. A couple had picked tons of “morels” and the wife, a neighbor and the husband ate them all. The husband became ill and died the next day. Further correspondence revealed that the symptoms were slurred speech, stomach pains, and dizziness. He “blacked out”, vomited black stomach contents. He was very hungry and very thirsty. Liver enzyme tests were negative. The victim was an elderly man who did not believe in doctors or in going to the hospital. He had suffered diarrhea for the previous 7 months and had been nauseated for a couple of weeks prior to the mushroom meal. A review of NAMA poisoning reports for the past 30 years did not reveal any deaths attributed to consumption of Gyromitra species, thought there were 9 reports of liver damage and three cases where the kidneys failed as well. This case involved neither liver nor kidney failure and the cause of death was ultimately determined not to be the mushrooms, though they may possibly have hastened the man’s demise.

A third puzzling case involved a horse. The NAMA Mushroom Poisoning Case Registry contains no reports of horses that had been poisoned by mushrooms. Here is the situation:
I found my prize broodmare Isabeau ill with severe diarrhea and fever. She had been perfectly healthy and fit the day before. Now she wouldn’t eat or drink and was very lethargic. I called the vet immediately but despite (extensive treatment) she showed no improvement…until the 9th day… One of my forest pastures contained a larger amount of mushrooms than we had ever seen before… Have you ever had a horse owner suspect mushroom poisoning in his horses…She was tested for Potomac Horse fever, Salmonella, EPM, West Nile Virus and everything came out negative. She has no organ damage. No founder. I talked with my vet and the vets at OSU. They see cases like this every fall. Half of the horses die. No one knows what causes them… Could mushrooms be a factor in these diarrhea cases?

I had no answer. Maybe others will have a chance to examine similar cases in the future and see whether or not there is a mushroom connection in these illnesses occurring in horses.

I dunno....

Mega-mushroom a savory stunner in Mexico - Yahoo! News
Mega-mushroom a savory stunner in Mexico

Tue Jul 10, 2:49 PM ET

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (AFP) - A more than 20-kilo (41-lb) mushroom has been picked in a forest in Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas, university officials said Tuesday.

The white mushroom, macrocybe titans, measured a towering 70 cm (27 in) tall, was found near Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, according to the Southern Border University Center.

This hand out from Colegio de la Frontera Sur(CFS) shows a man holding a 20kg (41lbs) white mushroom at a coffee farm of Chiapas state, Mexico, near the border with Guatemala, where it was discovered.(AFP/CFS-HO/File)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reflections on Mushroom Poisoning in North America

Reflections on Mushroom Poisoning in North America
By Michael W. Beug Ph.D.

In the thirty-year period of NAMA toxicology data collecting through 2005, we had received reports on a total of 126 people (averaging about 4 per year) who had eaten one of the deadly species of Amanita containing amotoxins. Over the course of twelve months from February 2006 to February 2007, I learned of 16 incidents of potentially lethal mushroom poisoning involving 71 people who had eaten deadly species of Amanita. There were 23 reported deaths. One of the deaths had occurred back in 2003 and 5 cases involved poisonings in Chiapas, Mexico in 2005 and 2006 that resulted in at least 18 or the 23 deaths. I normally would probably not have learned about the Mexican cases. However that still leaves 9 cases involving 44 people and 4 deaths in the U. S. and Canada during the 12 month period – ten times the average for the past thirty years. Consequently, I set out to try and estimate how good a job we are doing in learning about mushroom poisoning. I also came to some striking conclusions about the efficacy of prompt medical treatment for amotoxin poisoning.

In Chiapas, a remote state in southern Mexico, the death rate from ingestion of “Death Caps” and “Destroying Angels” is well in excess of 50%. However, in the United States and Canada, individuals who seek prompt medical treatment have a better than 90% chance of survival. Deaths of healthy adults can typically be avoided without liver transplantation (Regenstorff, et al 2003). Currently treatment involves repeated doses of activated charcoal to remove any traces of mushroom that still may be in the system, IV fluid replacement, massive doses of Penicillin G and treatment with IV and/or oral N-acetyl cysteine. The administration of Silymarin (milk thistle extract) may be of significant benefit. Oral milk thistle extract was used in many of the treatments of mushroom poisoning in the U. S. this past year. In California in a dramatic poisoning case that began January 1, 2007, Tod Mitchell MD was able to arrange emergency approval for use of injectable Silymarin (Legalon®) flown in from Europe. Within hours of use all four of the exceptionally ill patients showed dramatic improvement in liver function (Tod Mitchell personal communication). Indeed all of the patients recovered liver function, though unfortunately the oldest patient died of kidney failure (see full report in the NAMA Toxicology Committee Report for 2006, McIlvainea in press).

In one additional 2005 case involving Lepiota josserandii, dialysis was used successfully. The challenge in amatoxin cases is to combat the liver damage and thus avoid a liver transplant. In one of the North American cases, a liver transplant was successfully performed. In three of the four deaths, either a liver transplant or the available of oral Silymarin may have saved the individual’s life. In one (New York) case the patient refused a transplant and in a second (New York) case a liver did not become available in time. In one death (Minnesota) involving a young girl, I do not have enough information to know whether or not a liver transplant was being considered. Oral Silymarin was administered but I cannot help but wonder whether or not the availability of injectable Silymarin would have saved the two in New York and the young girl in Minnesota considering the extremely dramatic results when it was used in California.

From a combination of personal communications, literature and a lengthy Internet search, I have concluded that NAMA members are hearing about a majority of the serious mushroom poisonings and that death from mushroom poisoning is rare in countries with good medical treatment. For example in Spain from 1986 to 1988 there were 46 amatoxin poisonings (4 of which were fatal) – three died of hepatic insufficiency and a fourth died of intestinal perforation (Sanz et al 1989). The better than 90% survival rate is comparable to the U.S. and Canada. A useful Internet site ( turned up a reference to mushroom poisoning in Finland. Between 1885 and 1988, 17 reported cases of mushroom poisoning that led to death. Four of these were due to Gyromitra esculenta, which is widely sold and eaten in Nordic countries.

In the United States, we know we have good data for the Rocky Mountain region (and Hawaii) because of Marilyn Shaw’s extensive efforts. Jan Lindgren and Judy Rogers have good working relations with the Oregon Poison Center and other NAMA members around the country work to fill in information about their regions. However, California has always been a big question mark as to how good our data are. Dr. William Freedman pursues all the leads he can get but medical confidentiality makes his work extremely difficult and California is a populous state with an exceptionally long mushroom season. Consequently I was most happy to discover a paper on mushroom poisoning in California from 1993 to 1997 (Nordt and Manoguerra 2000). During that time period California Poison Control Center reports contained a total of 6,317 exposures (an average of over 1,200 per year) of which 99.7% were acute and 0.3% were chronic. Most (4,235 or 67%) involved children less than 6 years old but only 6% of these experienced clinical effects from their exposure (an average of about 50/year). In patients 6 years old and older (2082 cases), 588 (28.2%) reported vomiting, 307 (14.7%) reported nausea, 263 (12.6%) reported diarrhea, and 221 (10.6%) had abdominal pain. Sixty-one patients were admitted to critical care. However, major effects were reported in just 17 patients (0.3% of reports, average 3.4 major poisonings/year). There was one death in the five-year period, a 32 year-old who foraged cyclopeptide mushrooms (presumably Amanita phalloides or Amanita ocreata).

I also was able to contact Dr. Zane Horowitz at Oregon Health Sciences University for some additional insight on Oregon poisonings. In the fall of 1989 there was a single cluster of 5 patients of which 4 went on to have a liver transplant. There have been no transplants since and no deaths either. He estimated that they deal with fewer than 10 cases each year exhibiting evidence of elevated liver enzymes. Sandy Giffin, Department Director of the Oregon Poison Center then sent me a copy of the standard report which shows mushroom exposures for 2006 for the region served by the Oregon Poison Center (Oregon, Alaska and Nevada). Table I is created from their data.

Table I

*MMH (Monomethylhydrazine)

It is not clear what poisonings are classified as due to orellanine (possibly ingestion of Amanita smithiana). However, actual orellanine poisonings have never been confirmed in North America.

The total for these three states (Oregon, Alaska and Nevada) is about 22% the average for California, which is about what one would expect. Children under 6 accounted for 53% of the calls to the poison center. The entry under orellanine poisoning is curious, as I have seen no confirmed orellanine poisoning reports ever in North America. It is possible that the entry might refer to ingestion of Amanita smithiana that was once thought to contain orellanine, but it is impossible to answer this question with any certainty. The other two striking things that I note are that the number of calls due to hallucinogenic mushrooms is a striking 12% of the total and that only one ingestion (coincidentally of a hallucinogen) resulted in a major adverse effect. The prominence of calls regarding adverse effects of hallucinogens reflects the unusual abundance of hallucinogenic mushrooms in coastal regions of Washington, Oregon and Southern British Columbia. Other regions where hallucinogenic effects would be prominent are Hawaii and the Gulf States.

Over all I am increasingly confident that while NAMA is not getting reports of all poisonings that occur in North America, we are getting a good representative sample and we are learning about the majority of deadly poisonings. The detailed summary of poisoning reports for North America in 2006 will appear in a separate paper to appear in McIlvainea in press).


Sean Patrick Nordt and Anthony Monoguerra, “Five Year Analysis of Mushroom Exposures in California”, West J. Med. 2000 November; 173(5): 314-317

D.S. Regenstorff, R.W. Osorio, and M. Bonacini, “Recovery from Severe Hepatitis Caused by Mushroom Poisoning Without Liver Transplantation”, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2003; 1:392-396

P. Sanz, R. Reig, J. Piqueras, G. Marti and J. Corbella, “Fatal Mushroom Poisoning in Barcelona, Spain 1986-1988”, Mycopathologia, 1989 December; 108(3) pp?



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