B.C. scientists have discovered that death cap mushrooms have learned to live off the roots of Garry oak trees. This means the mushroom has adapted, spread itself farther, and can now also be found anywhere Garry oaks grow. (Adolf and Oluna Ceska photo)

B.C. scientists have discovered that death cap mushrooms have learned to live off the roots of Garry oak trees. This means the mushroom has adapted, spread itself farther, and can now also be found anywhere Garry oaks grow. (Adolf and Oluna Ceska photo)

Death cap mushroom evolves to survive off B.C. native tree species

Notoriously poisonous mushroom can now be found near the base of Garry oak trees

Beings of nature have a fascinating way of adapting to their environment.

Amanita phalloides, or death cap mushrooms, originated in Europe but were accidentally introduced in B.C. through hitching rides on the roots of trees, such as the sweet chestnut. Once planted in the yards of urban neighbourhoods here, the fruiting bodies began to make their presence known.

Initially, the notoriously poisonous mushroom would only show up near the base of transplanted European trees. And for a while, the only place they could be found was in Vancouver or the Greater Victoria region.

However, in the last few years B.C. scientists discovered that death caps have learned to live off the roots of Garry oak trees, shared Metchosin biologist Andy MacKinnon. This means that the mushroom species has adapted, spread itself farther, and can now also be found anywhere Garry oaks grow.

READ ALSO: Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

MacKinnon grew up in Vancouver, graduating with a master’s degree in mycology from the University of British Columbia. He noted that although death cap mushrooms have evolved to survive on the native oak trees, he is unsure of how this will affect the ecosystem.

“We really have no idea what the affect on the tree is,” said MacKinnon, who is currently helping with a study that investigates what fungi species grow on Garry oak roots. “It is difficult to tell whether the death cap would displace other fungi that grow on the roots, or just grow in addition to what is there already.”

There is a scarcity of research done on the relationship between Garry oaks and fungi, MacKinnon added, so before they could predict how the trees are affected, more information is needed on what other species grow on the roots.

MacKinnon, who is also a Metchosin councillor, continues to research the curious lives of mushrooms through various projects.

One of his learning lenses is focused with the Metchosin Biodiversity Project, a group that aims to increase understanding of Metchosin’s species and ecosystems. The organization holds annual “mycoblitz” events, which include the community in collecting and identifying mushrooms in Metchosin.

For more information, or to learn about species that have been identified in the region, please click here.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Quesnel resident receives a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (Photo credit: Cassidy Dankochik/Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
IH says COVID-19 vaccines safe despite claims of Lytton physician

Doctor makes unsubstantiated claims about serious side effects of Moderna vaccine

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood, this includes protecting one’s home by moving equipment and other assets from these areas to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-normal spring flood season

High-streamflow advisory issued for the Cariboo Region and areas including Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Interior Health issued warning April 18, 2021 of crack cocaine in Penticton that looks similar to the substance above containing fentanyl. (Interior Health photo)
Interior Health warns of fentanyl contaminated crack-cocaine in Penticton

There have been recent reports of overdose associated with the use of this substance

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

A native-to-B.C. wild queen bee (bombus melanopygus for those in the know) feeds on a periwinkle flower. (Submitted/Sarah Johnson, Native Bee Society of BC)
B.C.’s wild bees need messy gardens to survive

The year-long nesting period makes habitat a primary concern for wild bees

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Most Read