Mushrooms thrive in East Texas.  What's not to like?  Cool and damp are perfect conditions in which mushrooms grow, and we've got plenty of that to spare in our area forests and thickets.  Several years ago, the air conditioner in our radio station control room had a slow, but steady leak onto the carpeted floor.  We didn't realize that there was a leak until we saw a mushroom actually growing out of a space between the carpet and back wall of the studio.

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So, if you can have a mushroom growing out of a wet, moldy rug, the soil conditions in East Texas forests and many yards are perfect conditions for fungi to prosper.  There are some bold folks that go so far as foraging for mushrooms and eating them or eating soups made from them.  Unless you are an expert at mycology, the study of fungi/mushrooms, you would best advised to steer clear of them.  There are many that are edible and harmless, but, there are also quite a few that are dangerously toxic.  In fact, the mushroom responsible for the most deaths worldwide can be found quite readily in Deep East Texas.  It's called the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), and ingesting just half of one can prove fatal for a human or pet.

Wild Food UK via YouTube
Wild Food UK via YouTube

Part of the danger of the Death Cap is that it resembles many other mushrooms, including those that are usually harmless.  Death Cap mushrooms can be identified by it's greenish-yellow, sometimes olive colored cap or canopy.  Young Death Caps are usually bulbous on top, but their canopy flattens with age.  When removed from the ground, these mushrooms almost always feature a large, white 'egg-sac' from which they grow.

I've included a couple videos that go into more detail on identifying Death Cap mushrooms.  These videos are from the United Kingdom which is where these mushrooms originated.  However, Death Caps have spread to all continents except Antarctica, and are quite fond of growing near oak and pine trees in damp and cool conditions.

Despite their high toxicity, Death Caps are reportedly quite delicious and their scent can be very alluring to pets. According to Dr. Justin Heinz at Texas A&M University, mushroom intoxication ranks near the top of the list of pet poisonings each year. So, if you see mushrooms where your pet(s) usually play, it would be best to get rid of the mushrooms or find a new place for your pet to frolic.


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