Relying on apps to distinguish between poisonous mushrooms and edible varieties could risk fatal consequences.
As winter draws closer, cool and wet weather conditions are making it prime time for death caps and yellow-staining mushrooms to flourish in Victoria.
Mushroom lovers falling victim to poisonous picks are among 60 people who have made mushroom-related calls to the state's poison information centre since April, resulting in some referrals to hospital.
Apps claiming to identify poison varieties aren't to be trusted, deputy chief health officer Angie Bone says.
"Consuming just a single death cap mushroom can result in liver failure and death, so if you are not an expert and absolutely certain of the species of mushroom, do not pick it or eat it," Dr Bone said.
"We have heard from the Victorian Poisons Information Centre that some of the recent poisonings have been related to people using apps to try to tell the difference between an edible and a toxic mushroom."
Late last month, a young child was taken to hospital in Canberra after consuming one of the wild mushrooms.
Dr Bone urged people to stop picking them. In 2020 Victoria had a spate of death cap mushroom poisonings, with eight people in hospital at one point.
Five people ended up in intensive care and one died.
"While commercially sold mushrooms are safe to consume, it can be very difficult to distinguish between toxic and edible varieties of wild mushroom," she said.
"There is a serious risk of misidentification when using mushroom-identifying apps and there can be major consequences to your health of getting it wrong."
Death cap mushrooms, found near deciduous trees - those which shed their leaves annually - are the most dangerous.
The mushrooms are large and have a greenish or yellowish cap with white gills, and a cup-shaped sac around the base of the stem.
Symptoms of poisoning from death caps can include stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea within hours of their consumption, but organ failure can also happen between 24 and 48 hours after they have been ingested.
Yellow-staining mushrooms turn yellow when the cap or stem is bruised by a thumbnail and, according to Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens, they are the cause of the most wild fungi poisonings in the state.
People who eat yellow-staining mushrooms can experience symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Dr Bone said anyone who became ill after they ate a mushroom should seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom to identify it.
Wild mushrooms can also be lethal for pets.
Australian Associated Press
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