Mushroom Safety at UC Berkeley

More than 200 different species of fungi (commonly called mushrooms) and lichen can be seen on the grounds of the UC Berkeley campus, particularly along the campus creeks. New species of fungi have even been discovered on campus.

It is important to be extremely cautious when you encounter these wild mushrooms. While some of the mushrooms growing on campus are edible, there are poisonous and deadly varieties. It is difficult to identify mushroom types and therefore it is not recommended to harvest edible mushrooms on campus. Pet owners are encouraged to keep their animals under close watch during the winter months, after recent rainfall, and in areas with regular irrigation. Contact a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten any mushroom on campus.

At least two poisonous, potentially deadly, species of mushrooms have been observed on the UC Berkeley campus:  the Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata) and the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides).

The Funeral Bell is a small brown mushroom, with a broad cap that can range in color from gray-brown to brown to yellow-brown. Because of this variability, the Funeral Bell can resemble other edible fungi.

The Death Cap also looks like other edible mushrooms, both in its immature and mature states, and is responsible for the majority of mushroom poisonings worldwide. It has a greenish-grey cap, white gills, and a white ring around the stem. It usually fruits in the fall, right after the first rains, but has been observed on campus in the summer months. The Death Cap has been found growing on many hardwoods, but is mainly associated with Oak trees. 

Both of these species contain Amatoxins, a set of toxins that are not destroyed by heat. These toxins affect liver and kidney function, leading to failure in humans and animals if not treated promptly. As little as 30g (1.1 oz) of Death Cap mushroom is enough to kill a human, and there is no known antidote for Amatoxins.

Recommended reading: Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast, Siegal & Schwarz. 10-speed Press, 2016.

Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)

Amanita Phalloides

Photo by Trent Pearce, Naturalist, Tilden Nature Area, courtesy of East Bay Regional Park District

Funeral Bell (Galerina Marginata)

Galerina Marginata

Photo by Trent Pearce, Naturalist, Tilden Nature Area, courtesy of East Bay Regional Park District

Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)

© Imani Inocybe, all rights reserved

Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata)

© thebody, some rights reserved