Terrible Mistake

omphalotus_illudens_03 jack o lantern mushroomMy father used to forage for mushrooms in the woods and took my brother, sister, and I with him as children. We had memorable hikes. Our father passed away some years ago, but my brother still enjoys mushroom hunting with his grown kids. So when his neighbor offered him some Chantrelles, he jumped at the chance to have some. After he ate one raw, he called me in a panic. He told me he didn’t feel right and it was hard to breathe. I rushed over to his place.

He complained his tongue felt thick and it was hard to swallow or talk. His breathing was shallow and his color was changing to grayish-pale. I called 911. While I was speaking with the 911 operator, my brother collapsed on the floor and was shaking. The fire fighters arrived first and looked at the mushrooms on the table. Some were Chantrelles, but Jack O’Lantern mushrooms were mixed in. He was taken to the hospital for observation.Jack O’Lantern mushrooms generally make you sick if you eat them and are poisonous. However, they affect everyone different, especially those with medical issues. My brother has a seizure disorder from a traumatic brain injury years ago.

The above picture is a Jack O’Lantern mushroom. They grow in clusters with the stems attached and may appear where there are no trees. Chantrelles rarely grow in clusters. They are usually under trees, especially fir and pine in Washington state, and usually four or five at the most. Both Chantrelles and Jack O’Lantern mushrooms are orange. The difference is when you slice off the stem of a Chantrelle, it’s flesh is white, and Jack O’ Lanterns are orange. Also, Chantrelles have false gills that fork wrinkles on the underside of the mushroom. False gills aren’t easily removed from the cap without ripping them. Jack O’Lanterns have true gills, meaning they are non-forked and knife-like and they run down the stem. True gills are individual, blade-like structures and can separate from the cap. The Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms contain the toxin, muscarine which causes diarrhea and severe cramps. They also have a bioluminescent property, they glow a light green, if fresh, at night. I noticed the Jack O’ Lantern mushroom also dips more in the center of the cap like a nipple. I hope this helps others out in the field.

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