Weather Watch


The recent rains have brought so much to the California landscape and, as in most things in nature, it comes with the negative and the positive. While the flooding was tragically devastating and many are still cleaning up, good news was also brought by the rain.

Our brown hills are green once again, water reclamation plants are housing thousands of gallons of water and mountains have healthy snowcaps.

But another thing that the rains have brought is a bumper crop of wild poisonous mushrooms, according to California Poison Control System (CPCS).

The heavy rains have brought on a “tremendous number of poisonous Amanita phalloides or ‘death cap’ mushrooms, which lead to an increase in human poisonings reported to the CPCS,” stated the CPCS.

“They are more common in Northern California but can be in Southern [California],” said a CPCS spokesman.

Death caps mainly grow under and near oak trees, which are plentiful throughout our area. Mushrooms are the flowering part of fungi.

Fungi can be single-celled or very complex multicellular organisms. They can be found in many areas but mostly live on land in soil or plant material, according to

Death caps can easily be mistaken for other edible mushrooms. The caps of the mushroom can be from one to six inches wide and are usually pale green to yellow in color. But it really doesn’t matter what they look like; the main warning is – don’t eat wild mushrooms!

“No matter how experienced one is at mushroom identification, there is always a risk in eating wild mushrooms,” stated Dr. Rais Vohra, CPCS medical director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS.

There are over 700 cases of mushroom ingestion reported to CPCS each year, and though fatalities are uncommon they do occur.

Now I know that when some hear the word “mushroom” it can evoke colorful images of a hookah-smoking caterpillar sitting atop a mushroom and a bottle that reads “drink me” and another one that reads “eat me.” And when Alice in Wonderland eats pieces of mushroom it changes her physical being.

There is a long history of “magic mushroom” stories and images. One of the absolutely strangest mushroom fictional “trips” was in the ’80s movie “Altered States.” It is a film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Ken Russell. There is a lot to this movie but the take away is when the main character travels to Mexico he drinks a mushroom tea, a traditional spiritual experience for indigenous people. He ends up killing a sacred lizard during his first experience, which he denies doing, but that doesn’t stop him from taking a cup full of the mushroom tea mixture back home where he and his fellow college professors begin their studies into these fantasy fungi.

The mushroom mixture in this film actually reverses evolution, first taking the main character to a Neanderthal-type being, then to a type of primordial soup before returning back to a human being … through the power of love. Okey dokey. Those were some powerful mushrooms.

But beyond the psychedelic powers that some mushrooms have there is a world of mushroom studies that may surprise some. For example, mushrooms have helped remove oil from soil and can clean spills of motor oil and diesel fuel.

In the documentary “Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us,” mushrooms are being studied to decompose used cigarette filters. Among many possible uses are as material for containers, like for leftover food, that will decompose after use. Fungi can be used for filtering water and even in battery design.

“Altered States” described the mushroom in the tea as the “first primordial flower,” which may be a pretty accurate description.

In the fungi documentary, Paul Stamets, a mycologist (someone who works with /studies fungi) said that mushrooms are “the grand molecular decomposer of nature.” They break down organic matter to regenerate forests.

The film declares, “It’s amazing what we don’t know about mushrooms.”

So fungi and mushrooms may be an answer to many of the planet’s woes, which seems poetic when you think that the Earth can actually show us the way to help the planet itself – if only we would listen.

The documentary does go on for some time on the psychedelic properties of mushrooms and the advantages they have for mental and physical health, but it is also important to remember that not all experiences with these types of mushrooms are good, and that self-medication is not the best way to solve a mental or medical conditions.

It is also very important to note that you should not eat mushrooms from the ground, even if you think they look delicious. Even cooking death cap mushrooms will not make them safe. Eating poisonous mushrooms can cause abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage and death. Symptoms typically develop six to 12 hours after eating. The most serious illness and deaths have been linked to mushrooms that cause liver damage, including Amanita ocreata or “destroying angel,” as well as the death cap, according to CPCS.

So while you’re on a walk and notice a mushroom growing on the ground admire its beauty, thank it for its efforts in saving the planet … and just keep walking.

It looks like the overgrowth and surplus of mushrooms will not get any rain over the next few days. It even looks like it might be a little warmer, from the mid 50s to the mid and upper 60s, during the day. The lows will stay in the 40s. There will be some winds, five to 10 mph today, along with some clouds but no rain in the near future, according to NOAA.