The Sickener

I love it when Wikipedia’s article of the day is something to do with mushrooms, especially ones that I am familiar with ( I love this because I feel like it gives lots of other people an opportunity to see how interesting mushrooms can be).  Today (Wednesday Nov. 28th 2012) is one of those mushroom articles of the day on Wikipedia, and it is a good one too.  Let me introduce you to Russula emetic.

R. emetica was one of the earliest mushrooms that I actaully began to learn quite a bit about and also which I have come to recognize (presumtively) with relavtive ease.  The reason why this is was an early learned mushroom for me is becuase it is probably quite ubiquitos throughout the region in which I do my mushroom foraging and also becuase it is a ery common poisonous mushroom (note the other names for the mushroom: The Sickener, Emetic Russla, or Vomiting Russula).  While not deadly in its own right, R. emetica has quite the reputation for causing some nasty stomach illness, and thus is one to avoid carefully.

The problem with R. emitica is that it is a red-capped and white gilled Russula mushroom, and if you know anything about Russulas then you know that a lot of them have red caps and white gills (the name Russula even means “reddish”).  As such, positively identifying R. emetica can be quite challenging and vry likely will require microscopic analysis of spores for absolute certainty. 

Becuase of this difficulty in identifying the different types of red-capped and white gilled Russulas I tend to avoid them all, even while knowing that some are noted as good edibles.  this brings to note a really important aspect of mushroom foraging that I have tried to emphasize on this blog before.  With proper practice, some serious patience, and major attention to detail we can all eat wild mushrooms safely.  However, you have to know what you are looking for and practice very careful and precise IDing.  If you do not have that 100% certainty that a mushroom is a safe edible then DO NOT EAT IT!  It’s not worth it.  While most poisonous mushrooms are more like R. emetica and while just give you a nasty upset stomach for awhile, some few are very very deadly and can and will kill you if you are not careful. What is more, some of these deadly mushrooms can look very close to known edibles (consider Galerina marginata – the deadly galerina – which can look very similar to known edibles like Armillaria mellea – the honey mushroom). It just isn’t worse being careless.  One of the things that I always recommend to people getting into mushroom foraging (and which I have heard other mushrooms recommend as well) is the importance of learning the characteristics of the common poisonous mushrooms in the area and making careful sure to avoid anything that is too similar to them.

Just because you cannot eat a mushroom (because it might make you vomit all over the place or become dead) doesn’t mean you cannot appreciate and enjoy them. I personally love R. emetica (or the other red-capped russulas they might be) becuase they are beautiful little fungi.  When young and fresh they look like little red gems in the forest.  They are incredibly photogenic mushrooms.  Additionally, where they are found there are often other mushrooms nearby.  Other poisonous mushrooms can be just as fascination.  The Destroying Angel often has absolutely stunning specimens (it is referred to as an “Angel” becuase of its beauty) looking like something carved from pure white ivory rather a fungi.

Enjoy mushrooms, they are awesome, but know that you do not have to only be able to eat them to find them fascinating.  Appreciate their complexity and success and visual appeal.  It is a lot of fun.

A Possible Russula emetica

Here is some kind of red-capped and white gilled russula (possibly R. emetica). This one has been ate up a bit (probably by slugs, but also possibly by squirrels, which love them). I find russulas like this all the time when mushroom foraging.

~ by Nathaniel on November 28, 2012.

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