As an amateur mycologist — that’s someone who studies fungi — Ellen King Rice was concerned to see mushrooms she thought were from the Amanita pantherina group sprouting near her home west of Olympia.
These can be attractive to dogs given their fishy smell, but can cause a coma-like sleep if eaten, according to the North American Mycological Association. They also can cause drowsiness, nausea and vomiting in people.
Ah, spring: the sun is out, the birds are chirping — and the mushrooms are here, a good time to remember some types can spell trouble.
“You really need to know what you’re doing,” Marian Maxwell of the Puget Sound Mycological Society said to would-be mushroom hunters.
Spring mushroom season typically starts at the end of April and lasts until June, when it gets too hot and dry. The fall season, which brings more varieties and quantities, runs late September until the first hard frost.
Maxwell said she is not so concerned about Amanita pantherina, which are common in these parts and help trees they grow under to absorb minerals and water.
“They are actually good guys, even though they’re not good for us,” Maxwell said, adding she does not recommend anyone eat them.
This time of year she worries more about morel look-alikes called Gyromitra esculenta, which can be poisonous and even deadly, according to the North American Mycological Association.
The association warns even the coveted morel can cause problems if consumed raw or not thoroughly cooked.
Maxwell said when it comes to people and pets, the best advice is don’t eat a mushroom unless you know what it is. She recommends not relying on pictures but seeking out expert advice or training in the field.