The death angel mushroom is the common name for two species of deadly all-white mushrooms that can be found in Michigan:
Amanita phalloides, known as “death cap”, and Amanita ocreata, known as “destroying angel”.
These mushrooms contain amatoxins, which are among the most toxic compounds found in mushrooms. Consuming even a small amount can be fatal.
Description of the Death Angel Mushrooms
The death cap mushroom has a greenish-yellow cap, white gills and stalk.
The cap can reach up to 6 inches wide. The destroying angel is all white with a cap, gills, and stalk.
The caps on both mushrooms are initially rounded and then flatten out as they mature.
They can resemble edible button mushrooms when young.
Where They Grow
Death angel mushrooms grow beneath hardwood and conifer trees.
They particularly like growing under oak, pine, beech, birch, chestnut, and eucalyptus trees.
They can pop up in forests, parks, yards, and other wooded areas.
In Michigan, they are most common in the southern part of the state.
Toxicity and Symptoms
Both the death cap and destroying angel mushrooms contain amatoxins.
These toxins inhibit RNA synthesis which stops protein production in cells.
Just one mushroom can cause severe liver damage.
Consuming the death angel causes gastrointestinal symptoms in 6-24 hours.
This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
More severe symptoms come on in 36-72 hours as the toxins start destroying the liver and kidneys.
This leads to jaundice, hypoglycemia, kidney failure, bleeding disorders, coma, and possibly death.
If ingestion is suspected, immediately call poison control or go to an emergency room.
There are no home remedies. At the hospital, treatment focuses on preventing absorption of the toxin from the gastrointestinal tract, intravenous hydration, and potentially a liver transplant.
Quick medical treatment is necessary to prevent liver failure and death.
Avoiding Accidental Poisoning
It is critical to be able to properly identify death angel mushrooms to avoid accidental poisoning.
Never eat any wild mushroom without confirming identification with an expert.
Young death angels can resemble edible puffballs. Mature ones can look similar to edible white gilled mushrooms.
When foraging for mushrooms, avoid picking any all-white gilled mushrooms.
If in doubt, throw it out! Cooking or freezing these mushrooms does not deactivate the toxins.
Proper identification is the only way to prevent accidental poisoning.
In summary, the death angel mushrooms found in Michigan forests may appear harmless but contain deadly toxins.
Their white color disguises their danger.
With proper identification and caution, mushroom lovers can still safely forage and enjoy edible wild mushrooms in the state.
Just leave the death angels alone!
[Related Post: 10 Common Mushrooms In Michigan]