Poisonous mushrooms: the most common species in Italy. What they are and how to recognize them

Poisonous mushrooms: the most common species in Italy. What they are and how to recognize them


In Italy there are up to 5,000 different mushrooms . Some of them are particularly toxic, poisonous and potentially lethal. Just think also in Europe, every year, there are over 10,000 poisonings due to the consumption of mushrooms. It is therefore essential to learn to  recognize the most dangerous species,  in order not to risk consuming toxic mushrooms.

Mushroom intoxication can represent a so-called time-dependent emergency situation. The symptoms determined by the ingestion of poisonous or inedible mushrooms are different and closely related to the type of mushroom ingested. At the first indications of intoxication ( vomiting , diarrhea , abdominal cramps ) it is essential to accompany the person who has consumed the mushrooms to the emergency room to immediately start the therapeutic procedure practiced in these cases.

Decalogue of Prevention


The Ministry of Health has listed a decalogue of good rules to follow to prevent mushroom poisoning :

  1. Do not consume mushrooms that have not been checked by a mycologist
  2. Consume mushrooms in moderate quantities
  3. The consumption of mushrooms is not recommended for children
  4. Do not ingest during pregnancy
  5. Consume mushrooms only if in perfect condition
  6. Consume the mushrooms well cooked and chew properly
  7. Blanch the mushrooms before freezing and consume them within 6 months
  8. Do not consume mushrooms collected along the roads, near industrial and cultivated centers (pesticides)
  9. Do not give collected mushrooms unless checked by a mycologist
  10. Beware of pickled mushrooms due to the potential development of botulinum toxin

Poisonous mushrooms: Symptoms of intoxication

Short latency syndromes

They appear 30 minutes to 6 hours after ingestion and usually resolve in about 24 hours. They are:

  • Gastrointestinal syndrome manifested by vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain after a meal or at most within 3-4 hours of ingestion (if you consume: Entoloma lividum, Russula emetica, Boletus satanas).
  • Pantherin syndrome manifested by vertigo , euphoria , tremors and confusion . In the most serious forms, seizures and hallucinations may also appear due to the ingested toxins (ibotenic acid, muscimol and muscazone). It is typical when Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina are eaten.
  • Muscarinic syndrome manifests with headache , abdominal pain , hypersalivation , intense sweating , lacrimation , tremors and bradycardia appearing 15 to 60 minutes after ingestion. It is due to the ingestion of Amanita Muscaria.
  • Psychodysleptic syndrome manifests itself with visual disturbances and distortion of the perception of colors or shapes , disorientation, agitation and aggression . LSD-like symptoms.
  • Coprinica syndrome manifests with cutaneous vasodilatation , hypotension , tachycardia , and headache . Consequence of ingestion of Coprinus atramentarius.

Long latency syndromes

They manifest themselves late from 6-12 hours after ingestion. They represent the most serious forms that require medical emergency and consequent immediate gastric lavage . They are:

  • Phalloid syndrome : vomiting and diarrhea , severe states of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, liver necrosis . Very dangerous, it is manifested by the presence of amaretoxins even by taking 20-30 grams of mushrooms.
  • Orellanic syndrome : muscle pain , headache, chills , inappetence, contraction of diuresis which, in particularly serious cases, can lead to kidney failure, compromising its function. It occurs in case of ingestion of mushrooms of the genus Cortinarius orellanus and speciosissimus.

Poisonous mushrooms: what are they?

  • Amanita phalloides . Among the particularly poisonous mushrooms widespread in Italy, above all in deciduous and coniferous woods , there is undoubtedly the Amanita Phalloides , also known as  Angel of Death . Even if ingested in small quantities, it can cause irreversible damage to the liver and central nervous system . The mushroom has a  greyish-yellowish-white  hair , smooth , and sometimes with green streaks. The slats  are white. The  stem is bulbous.
  • Amanita verna . It is often found in calcareous soils, in deciduous forests . It has a very light colour, the cap , of a smooth hemispherical shape, and in shades of ocher in the central part. The gills  are clear and dense and the  stem is cylindrical in shape, bulbous at the base. It causes states of serious intoxication , often with a lethal outcome.
  • Boletus Satanas . The name already reveals its danger. We are talking about the  Maleficent Porcino, often found in groups in broad-leaved woods . It has a hat with a diameter of 10-30 cm, white in color with green and gray shades. The stem is yellowish (that of the edible porcini mushroom is white-ochre). The stem is short and stocky. Its toxicity is already revealed when cut: it becomes reddish.
  • Gyromitra Esculenta. It has a  reddish- brown hat  , called  miter , the stem  is whitish, with pink-purple shades. It prefers  moist, mountainous soils . It is very fragrant and can be misleading.
  • Amanita muscaria . It is the best known of the poisonous mushrooms. The  hat  is red, with light gills, while the  stem appears light and fleshy. It is not lethal, but if ingested even in small quantities it can cause  important gastrointestinal  symptoms , as well as hallucinations and euphoria.
  • Scleroderma Citrinus . Very common and easy to find poisonous type. This mushroom, which has no stem, vaguely resembles a tuber due to its spherical shape and hard and thick surface, and yellowish color.
  • Columbine red. The red dove, if ingested, causes vomiting: for this reason it is also called “emetic”. Bulbous cap of light red color, without streaks.
  • Lepiota Cristata (or false drumstick ) . It looks more like a flower than a mushroom. Tall, white in color and with a very delicate hat. It could look like drumsticks and be misleading, even if the latter are darker in color.
  • Russola Foetens . It has a very strong and nauseating smell reminiscent of bleach. Firm stem, cylindrical and thin; cap closed and ocher yellow.


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