CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Children and Toxic Fungi:
The Essential Medical Guide to Fungal Poisoning in Children

By Roy Watling
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 1995
ISBN 1-872291-16-3, ₤10.00

Although this isn’t a new book, it is still available and deserves to be more widely known. The author, Roy Watling, is familiar to many NAMA members. He is a world expert in the Bolbitiaceae, leccinums, tropical macrofungi, and many other myco-subjects, for many years was the head mycologist at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and long has been a wonderful teacher of and mentor for amateur mycologists in the UK and beyond. He wrote this small book in response to the finding that, in the UK, roughly half of the suspected poisonings by fungi involved children.


Thus, in this short handbook (only 54 pages), he describes and provides treatment information for the fungi (including some non-poisonous ones) most likely to be consumed by grazing youngsters. These are species found in backyards, lawns, playfields, and the like, but excluding those characteristically found in forests and woodlands, as children are less likely to sample their fungal surroundings in those habitats. Because most of the fungi included also occur in North America (e.g., Agrocybe praecox, Conocybe filaris, Marasmius oreades, Clitocybe dealbata, and Panaeolus foenisecii), much of the information will be of use to those of us on this side of the Atlantic.

Watling first introduces eight major toxicity categories and their associated symptoms, and provides a flow chart that uses the observed symptoms to pin down the particular category. Once that has been determined, the potential causative fungi are listed along with page references for the descriptions and treatment information. Each two-page spread deals with one or two species. The information includes toxicity category, key characters of the mushroom, medical symptoms, treatment, habitat, general notes, and general, technical, and medical references. Each species is illustrated with a color photo, and many of Roy’s simple but effective line drawings of fruit bodies and microscopic features are included. The descriptions are written in non-technical language and are easily understandable.

In cases where two species are treated on the same pages, they are designated “A” and “B” and discussed as such. I found this somewhat confusing and suspect that it would be even more so if I was a frantic parent whose child wandered into the kitchen with a mouthful of mushrooms. The photos are a bit small and their quality is varied – some are good, while others are too dark or fail to show the key features of the fungus. The line drawings will be especially helpful in these cases.

For those who are likely to be called by the local emergency room or neighbors for assistance in the case of mushroom ingestions, this would be a useful library addition.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in The Mycophile 49:1, 2008