Editor’s note: Inspired and dampened by the Bay Area’s unusually wet winter and early spring, we’re reprinting a column originally published in 2009. Horticulturist Robin North is no longer with Fairyland; her replacement for the last six years has been Jackie Salas.
By C.J. Hirschfield
After the most recent rainstorm, two separate groups of people—one from Asia, the other from Eastern Europe—recently knocked on our door at Fairyland and asked if they could pick the mushrooms they’d spied inside our gates.
After conferring with Robin North, our horticulturist, I decided to politely decline. There are tons of types of mushrooms, and even Robin can’t be 100 percent sure of the safety of all of the varieties that call Fairyland home. At least once every year, there is a story about a Bay Area family rushed to the hospital after someone misidentified a local fungus.
Ironically, the cutest, most “Fairyland-like” mushroom that grows in our park is probably the most poisonous: the Amanita. This deceptively lovely mushroom, which is red with white spots, is responsible for approximately 95 percent of deaths from mushroom poisoning. And darned if the huge mushroom in the middle of our park, on which our “bubble elf” sits, isn’t Amanita-like in its coloring.
|Fairyland's bubble elf, "Oswald," atop what appears to be an Amanita mushroom.|