Green Around the Gills

Nebraska Extension Master Gardeners are individuals who are passionate about gardening and sharing research-proven solutions.  Potential volunteers apply and go through an interview to be selected as an intern.  They will receive over 48 hours of initial education from experts in soils, botany, landscape design and more and give back 40 hours of volunteer service to their counties annually.  Over 200 active Extension Master Gardeners in Douglas-Sarpy counties donate over 14,000 hours of their time yearly.

This week we asked our Master Gardener volunteers to write blogs for GRO Big Red and these are their articles.  Many thanks to the Master Gardeners for their willingness to learn and give back.

If you are curious or would like to know more about the Extension Master Gardener program in Douglas-Sarpy Counties, join us November 14th at 6:30 pm at 8015 W. Center Road in Omaha or November 16th at 1:00 pm at Sump Memorial Library in Papillion.

–Scott, Kathleen, John, Jonathan, John

FairyRingB tom weber

Green Around the Gills

By Master Gardener Tom Weber

Which poisonous mushroom is responsible for the most commonly reported human poisonings to poison control centers in the United States?  Did you guess Amanita sp.?  Wrong.  False morels?  Also wrong.  The mushroom species that has caused more poisonings in the United States, and Nebraska, than any other species is Chlorophyllum molybdites.  The only common name occasionally used for this species is the “green-spored Lepiota.”  This is a large mushroom with a cap 10-30 cm (4-12”) across on a stalk of 10-25 cm (4-10”).  It is commonly found in lawns and grassy areas of parks in summer and early fall.

While these mushrooms may be found in small groups, they are more commonly found in full or partial “fairy rings.”  Despite the name, fairy rings do not result from the dancing round and round of little people on misty moonlit nights, as folklore would have it.  The vegetative portions, hyphae, grow as saprophytes for months, or years, in the soil and produce the reproductive structures, mushrooms, when environmental conditions (temperature and moisture) are favorable.  The fairy rings are produced as a result of growth originating from a central location.  Close inspection of fairy rings often show a band of lighter green grass outside the ring and darker green grass inside the ring.  This is caused by the growing hyphae using the nitrogen in the soil and then when they die they release the nitrogen.  Two other species commonly producing fairy rings in grassy areas are Agaricus campestris and Marasmius oreades, neither of which is poisonous.

What distinguishes C. molybdites from other mushrooms is the production of pale greenish spores and the greenish color of the mature gills.  No other mushroom produces green spores.  However, when young, the gills of the developing mushroom are white and this can result in misidentification.

Eating these mushrooms is a memorable experience.  A local golfer found a large fairy ring of C. molybdites on a golf course in Omaha, picked them and took them home.  After cooking and sampling a bite he found them to be quite tasty.  Thus assuming they were not poisonous, he ate several.  An hour or so later (typically 1-2 hours after ingestion) he experienced nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.  This was followed by severe diarrhea.  After about 15 episodes in the next few hours, he thought he was going to die and almost wished he would.  He was treated for dehydration at a local hospital and recovered in about 8 hours (typical recovery takes 6-24 hours).  There is no specific antidote for this poisoning and although not normally fatal, at least one death has been reported.

So lesson learned.  Don’t eat mushrooms you can’t identify with certainty and taste is not a reliable test for toxin production.

Chlorophyllum3 (002) tom weber

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