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

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Vavenby Fire Department battles the flames of a house fire Friday, April 9. (Photo from GoFundMe page)
Community rallies to support Vavenby family after house fire

Communities in the North Thompson have come together to support a family… Continue reading

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Interior Health announces 89 cases of COVID-19 in the region

Currently, there are 900 active cases in the region

B.C. Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon. (B.C. Cattlemen’s Association photo)
COVID, BSE, water access and private land rights: B.C. Cattlemen’s general manager weighs in

Kevin Boon said positive aspect of pandemic is more people interested in where their food comes from

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Most Read