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

President of the West Coast Fine Arts Show, Brian Croft, said pandemic restrictions necessitated a shift to an entirely online event this year, running until April 30. (File photo)
The West Fine Art Show shifts to an online-only event amid tighter health orders

Website version retains the flavour of the annual live exhibition

A vaccine-filled needle awaits injection, during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic held Jan. 15, 2021 at Amica White Rock. Community Living B.C.-funded workers learned April 8 that they, too, can now be vaccinated. (Tracy Holmes file photo)
Support workers for those with disabilities given vaccine priority

News shared with Community Living B.C.-funded staff on April 8

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

Scott Wheatley stands with the main Kenyan and Ugandan umpiring crew that he trained at the Nakirebe Complex outside of Kampala in 2020. Wheatley, a member-at-large with Softball B.C. is supporting a recent open letter from the sporting body that calls on the government to reinstate gameplay for kids in organized sports. (Photo: Submitted)
Softball B.C. urges provincial health officer to lift ban on gameplay for kids in organized sports

Sporting body sent open letter to both Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix

Surrey Fire Service is on scene of a fire in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue Saturday morning (April 10). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews on scene of house fire

It happened in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fraser Valley tulip attraction returns this weekend for 1 month

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

Most Read