Some mushroom toxins can take you for a wild ride (think hallucinogenic psilocybin and psilocin mushrooms), and others can send you to the Great Beyond. Forever.

Why? Because mushrooms are like flowers for fungi. They hold spores, which are like seeds, that they want to spread far and wide. If you eat mushrooms, you’re really messing with their fungal fuition game plan. Hence: “lay off me!” toxins.

Though most of the more than 140,000 species of mushrooms identified so far won’t hurt you, here are two that definitely could.

Found in: Inky cap mushrooms (Coprinus atramentarius), club foot mushrooms (Ampulloclitocybe clavipes), and other related species.

What happens: Coprine isn’t a poison on its own, but if you eat one of these mushrooms and chase it with a beer sometime over the next 48 hours, you’re in trouble. Coprine interferes with your body’s ability to break down alcohol and gives you a party buzz from hell.

First, your face and neck flush. You taste metal.

Then, your: face and hands begin to swell, heart races, and limbs tingle.

Then you start vomiting or hallucinating.

The result: You should get better. Eventually.


Found in: Amanita mushrooms like the fool’s mushroom (A. verna), the “destroying angel” (A. virosa), and the “death cap” mushroom (A. phalloides).

What happens: 1-24 hours after consumption, you have an upset stomach for a few days. Not great, but not terrible.

Then you start to feel better! Oh, you only think you do. Just when you call all your friends to celebrate your recovery, your organs fail.

The result: Without medical care, you’re dead within the week. 95% of mushroom fatalities can be blamed on these toxins.

Famous possible victims: Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Pope Clement VII, and Roman Emperor Claudius

Written by Roar and Geoff Balme. Dr. Balme is an entomologist and the author of Mushrooms of Umstead State Park and Surrounding Region.

Illustrated by Andy Kurtts, the founder and creative director of Buttermilk Creative. Previously he led the in-house design group at The Fresh Market, a specialty grocery store. Tune into his podcast, all about packaging design.