destroying angel: dark gardens glossary con’t.

For this week’s episode of my Dark Gardens glossary, I chose the Destroying Angel mushroom, the inspiration for my earrings of the same name. It’s a gloriously tempting name for a plant, but one that warns in no uncertain terms of the mushroom’s deadly properties. This elegant mushroom was first brought to my attention through (surprise, surprise) a starring role as a murder weapon in a British mystery series.

From the Cornell Mushroom Blog: “The nightmare of inexperienced mushroom hunters everywhere, the Destroying Angel occupies the coveted position of one of the most deadly poisonous mushrooms known to mycologists. The mushroom gets its common name from its infamously pure white fruiting body. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to identify in its mature and button stages, with a little effort. It is equipped with most of the features that a mushroom can have, including a skirt on the stem (annulus) and round cup-like base (volva). It displays a beautiful white cap, stalk, and gills, and deposits a white spore print. These white spores can be the crucial factor between life and death for someone who is trying to distinguish a Destroying Angel in its button stage from an edible, brown-spored, white button mushroom (Agaricus campestris)….

[Destroying Angel] will cause gastrointestinal distress (diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain) after five to twelve hours. However, symptoms typically remit after that, and one might assume that the worst has passed without going to the hospital. By the time the symptoms get worse again, after a day or two, it will probably be too late for the victim, who will likely suffer liver and kidney failure and enter a hepatic coma, ending in death.

The best way to avoid amatoxins is to learn to identify mushrooms like A. bisporigera, and not to rely on old wives’ tales. Don’t rely on single characteristics like color or shape in isolation. Instead, look for a combination of features including the white spore print, the skirt-like ring (annulus) around the stalk, the white gills that stop just shy of the stalk, and the cup-like volva at the bottom of the stalk (often underground). Fear of destroying angels should not prevent you from mushroom hunting, as any responsible mushroom hunter can learn to identify and avoid them. The destroying angels and their deadly sister the death cap (Amanita phalloides) are awfully good mushrooms to learn first.” Mushrooms are seductive, but mind your P’s & Q’s, and know exactly what you’re looking at before you eat it!

My Destroying Angel Earrings are harmless to the liver and digestive system, and their most severe side effect is a tendency to cause temporary swoons due to extreme sparkle. Vintage Swarovski emerald crystal beadballs hang from tiny bright sterling silver hoops, and a double length of delicate chain stands in as a symbolic mushroom stem. Lightweight, shiny and devastating on a dance floor.

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