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Funeral Bell - Galerina marginata This deadly toxic look alike to the honey mushroom appears in field guides as "Galerina autumnalis," but recent DNA studies have synonymized that species (and others) with Galerina marginata. Also known as the "funeral bell" mushroom, it contains Amatoxins or "amanitins" as does the deadly "destroying angel" of the Aminita mushroom family. Galerina marginata can be identified by its flat, convex or sometimes slightly bell-shaped brown cap, with a relatively small fragile ring on the stem (though specimens are sometimes found in which all evidence of the partial veil has disappeared). Above the ring, the stem is usually lighter tan in color and lacks ornamentation. The lower part of the stem is usually darker brown. The gills are about the same color as the top of the stem and darken with age. The flesh is a watery brown, unlike the honey which has white flesh. The mushrooms are usually not very big, with the caps only about an inch or two in diameter with the stems usually less than 2 inches long. The spore print of galerina marginata is a rusty brown, unlike the white spores of the honey. ------------- Galerina marginata is a species of poisonous fungus in the family Hymenogastraceae of the order Agaricales. Prior to 2001, the species G. autumnalis, G. oregonensis, G. unicolor, and G. venenata were thought to be separate due to differences in habitat and the viscidity of their caps, but phylogenetic analysis showed that they are all the same species. The fruit bodies of this fungus have brown to yellow-brown caps that fade in color when drying. The gills are brownish and give a rusty spore print. A well-defined membranous ring is typically seen on the stems of young specimens but often disappears with age. In older fruit bodies, the caps are flatter and the gills and stems browner. The species is a classic "little brown mushroom"—a catchall category that includes all small to medium-sized, hard-to-identify brownish mushrooms, and may be easily confused with several edible species. Galerina marginata is widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe, North America, and Asia, and has also been found in Australia. It is a wood-rotting fungus that grows predominantly on decaying conifer wood. An extremely poisonous species, it contains the same deadly amatoxins found in the death cap (Amanita phalloides). Ingestion in toxic amounts causes severe liver damage with vomiting, diarrhoea, hypothermia, and eventual death if not treated rapidly. About ten poisonings have been attributed to the species now grouped as G. marginata over the last century. Taxonomy and naming What is now recognized as a single morphologically variable taxon named Galerina marginata was once split into five distinct species. Norwegian mycologist Gro Gulden and colleagues concluded that all five represented the same species after comparing the DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer region of ribosomal DNA for various North American and European specimens in Galerina section Naucoriopsis. The results showed no genetic differences between G. marginata and G. autumnalis, G. oregonensis, G. unicolor, and G. venenata, thus reducing all these names to synonymy. The oldest of these names are Agaricus marginatus, described by August Batsch in 1789, and Agaricus unicolor, described by Martin Vahl in 1792. Agaricus autumnalis was described by Charles Horton Peck in 1873, and later moved to Galerina by A. H. Smith and Rolf Singer in their 1962 worldwide monograph on that genus. In the same publication they also introduced the G. autumnalis varieties robusta and angusticystis. Another of the synonymous species, G. oregonensis, was first described in that monograph. Galerina venenata was first identified as a species by Smith in 1953. Since Agaricus marginatus is the oldest validly published name, it has priority according to the rules of botanical nomenclature. A translucent, pointed cell with a rounded tip extending upwards into a clear area. Its base is embedded amongst a layer of poorly-resolved smaller cells most of which are attached to up to four smaller oval brownish cells. Acute-ended cystidia are characteristic of Galerina species in the section Naucoriopsis. Another species analysed in Gulden's 2001 study, Galerina pseudomycenopsis, also could not be distinguished from G. marginata based on ribosomal DNA sequences and restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses. Because of differences in ecology, fruit body color and spore size combined with inadequate sampling, the authors preferred to maintain G. pseudomycenopsis as a distinct species. A 2005 study again failed to separate the two species using molecular methods, but reported that the incompatibility demonstrated in mating experiments suggests that the species are distinct. In the fourth edition (1986) of Singer's comprehensive classification of the Agaricales, G. marginata is the type species of Galerina section Naucoriopsis, a subdivision first defined by French mycologist Robert Kühner in 1935. It includes small brown-spored mushrooms characterized by cap edges initially curved inwards, fruit bodies resembling Pholiota or Naucoria and thin-walled, obtuse or acute-ended pleurocystidia that are not rounded at the top. Within this section, G. autumnalis and G. oregonensis are in stirps Autumnalis, while G. unicolor, G. marginata, and G. venenata are in stirps Marginata. Autumnalis species are characterized by having a viscid to lubricous cap surface while Marginata species lack a gelatinous cap—the surface is moist, "fatty-shining", or matte when wet. However, as Gulden explains, this characteristic is highly variable: "Viscidity is a notoriously difficult character to assess because it varies with the age of the fruit body and the weather conditions during its development. Varying degrees of viscidity tend to be described differently and applied inconsistently by different persons applying terms such as lubricous, fatty, fatty-shiny, sticky, viscid, glutinous, or (somewhat) slimy." The specific epithet marginata is derived from the Latin word for "margin" or "edge", while autumnalis means "of the autumn". Common names of the species include the "marginate Pholiota" (resulting from its synonymy with Pholiota marginata), "funeral bell", "deadly skullcap", and "deadly Galerina". G. autumnalis was known as the "fall Galerina" or the "autumnal Galerina", while G. venenata was the "deadly lawn Galerina". Description The caps of the mushrooms are rolled inwards, and rest on stems that range in color from whitish to light orange-brown. Several of the stems have small, dark orange rings near the top. Young fruit bodies have margins rolled inwards. The cap reaches 1.7 to 4 cm (0.67 to 1.57 in) in diameter. It starts convex, sometimes broadly conical, and has edges (margins) that are curved in against the gills. As the cap grows and expands, it becomes broadly convex and then flattened, sometimes developing a central elevation, or umbo, which may project prominently from the cap surface. Based on the collective descriptions of the five taxa now considered to be G. marginata, the texture of the surface shows significant variation. Smith and Singer give the following descriptions of surface texture: from "viscid" (G. autumnalis), to "shining and viscid to lubricous when moist" (G. oregonensis), to "shining, lubricous to subviscid (particles of dirt adhere to surface) or merely moist, with a fatty appearance although not distinctly viscid", to "moist but not viscid" (G. marginata). The cap surface remains smooth and changes colors with humidity (hygrophanous), pale to dark ochraceous tawny over the disc and yellow-ochraceous on the margin (at least when young), but fading to dull tan or darker when dry. When moist, the cap is somewhat transparent so that the outlines of the gills may be seen as striations. The flesh is pale brownish ochraceous to nearly white, thin and pliant, with an odor and taste varying from very slightly to strongly like flour (farinaceous). The gills are typically narrow and crowded together, with a broadly adnate to nearly decurrent attachment to the stem and convex edges. They are a pallid brown when young, becoming tawny at maturity. Some short gills, called lamellulae, do not extend entirely from the cap edge to the stem, and are intercalated among the longer gills. The stem ranges from 3 to 6 cm (1.2 to 2.4 in) long, 3 to 9 mm (0.12 to 0.35 in) thick at the apex, and stays equal in width throughout or is slightly enlarged downward. Initially solid, it becomes hollow from the bottom up as it matures. The membranous ring is located on the upper half of the stem near the cap, but may be sloughed off and missing in older specimens. Its color is initially whitish or light brown, but usually appears a darker rusty-brown in mature specimens that have dropped spores on it. Above the level of the ring, the stem surface has a very fine whitish powder and is paler than the cap; below the ring it is brown down to the reddish-brown to bistre base. The lower portion of the stem has a thin coating of pallid fibrils which eventually disappear and do not leave any scales. The spore print is rusty-brown. Microscopic characteristics i Similar species Galerina marginata may be mistaken for a few edible mushroom species. Pholiota mutabilis produces fruit bodies roughly similar in appearance and also grows on wood, but may be distinguished from G. marginata by its stems bearing scales up to the level of the ring, and from growing in large clusters (which is not usual of G. marginata). However, the possibility of confusion is such that this good edible species is "not recommended to those lacking considerable experience in the identification of higher fungi." Furthermore, microscopic examination shows smooth spores in Pholiota. G. marginata may be easily confused with other edibles such as Armillaria mellea and Kuehneromyces mutabilis. Regarding the latter species, one source notes "Often, G. marginata bears an astonishing resemblance to this fungus, and it requires careful and acute powers of observation to distinguish the poisonous one from the edible one." K. mutabilis may be distinguished by the presence of scales on the stem below the ring, the larger cap, which may reach a diameter of 6 cm (2.4 in), and spicy or aromatic odor of the flesh. The related K. vernalis is a rare species and even more similar in appearance to G. marginata. Another potential edible look alike is the "velvet foot", Flammulina velutipes. This species has gills that are white to pale yellow, a white spore print, and spores that are elliptical, smooth, and measure 6.5–9 by 2.5–4 µm. A rough resemblance has also been noted with the edible Hypholoma capnoides, as well as Conocybe filaris, another poisonous amatoxin-containing species. Habitat and distribution Galerina marginata is a saprobic fungus, obtaining nutrients by breaking down organic matter. It is known to have most of the major classes of secreted enzymes that dissolve plant cell wall polysaccharides, and has been used as a model saprobe in recent studies of ectomycorrhizal fungi. Because of its variety of enzymes capable of breaking down wood and other lignocellulosic materials, the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) is currently sequencing its genome. The fungus is typically reported to grow on or near the wood of conifers, although it has been observed to grow on hardwoods as well. Fruit bodies may grow solitarily, but more typically in groups or small clusters, and appear in the summer to autumn. Sometimes, they may grow on buried wood and thus appear to be growing on soil. Galerina marginata is widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, found in North America, Europe, Japan, Iran, continental Asia, and the Caucasus. In North America, it has been collected as far north as the boreal forest of Canada and subarctic and arctic habitats in Labrador, and south to Jalisco, Mexico. It is also found in Australia. Toxicity Galerina marginata contains deadly amounts of amatoxins. Alpha-amanitin chemical structure The toxins found in Galerina marginata are known as amatoxins. Amatoxins belong to a family of bicyclic octapeptide derivatives composed of an amino acid ring bridged by a sulfur atom and characterized by differences in their side groups; these compounds are responsible for more than 90% of fatal mushroom poisonings in humans. The amatoxins inhibit the enzyme RNA polymerase II, which copies the genetic code of DNA into messenger RNA molecules. The toxin naturally accumulates in liver cells, and the ensuing disruption of metabolism accounts for the severe liver dysfunction cause by amatoxins. Amatoxins also lead to kidney failure because, as the kidneys attempt to filter out poison, it damages the convoluted tubules and reenters the blood to recirculate and cause more damage. Initial symptoms after ingestion include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea which may last for six to nine hours. Beyond these symptoms, toxins severely affect the liver which results in gastrointestinal bleeding, a coma, kidney failure, or even death, usually within seven days of consumption. Galerina marginata was shown in various studies to contain the amatoxins a-amanitin and?-amanitin, first as G. venenata, then as G. marginata and G. autumnalis. The ability of the fungus to produce these toxins was confirmed by growing the mycelium as a liquid culture (only trace amounts of �-amanitin were found). G. marginata is thought to be the only species of the amatoxin-producing genera that will produce the toxins while growing in culture. Both amanitins were quantified in G. autumnalis (1.5 mg/g dry weight) and G. marginata (1.1 mg/g dry weight). Later experiments confirmed the occurrence of?-amanitin and �-amanitin in German specimens of G. autumnalis and G. marginata and revealed the presence of the three amanitins in the fruit bodies of G. unicolor. Although some mushroom field guides claim that the species (as G. autumnalis) also contains phallotoxins (however phallotoxins cannot be absorbed by humans), scientific evidence does not support this contention. A 2004 study determined that the amatoxin content of G. marginata varied from 78.17 to 243.61 µg/g of fresh weight. In this study, the amanitin amounts from certain Galerina specimens were higher than those from some Amanita phalloides, a European fungus generally considered as the richest in amanitins. The authors suggest that "other parameters such as extrinsic factors (environmental conditions) and intrinsic factors (genetic properties) could contribute to the significant variance in amatoxin contents from different specimens." The lethal dose of amatoxins has been estimated to be about 0.1 mg/kg human body weight, or even lower. Based on this value, the ingestion of 10 G. marginata fruit bodies containing about 250 µg of amanitins per gram of fresh tissue could poison a child weighing approximately 20 kilograms (44 lb). However, a 20-year retrospective study of more than 2100 cases of amatoxin poisonings from North American and Europe showed that few cases were due to ingestion of Galerina species. This low frequency may be attributed to the mushroom's nondescript appearance as a "little brown mushroom" leading to it being overlooked by collectors, and by the fact that 21% of amatoxin poisonings were caused by unidentified species. The toxicity of certain Galerina species has been known for a century. In 1912, Charles Horton Peck reported a human poisoning case due to G. autumnalis. In 1954, a poisoning was caused by G. venenata. Between 1978 and 1995, ten cases caused by amatoxin-containing Galerinas were reported in the literature. Three European cases, two from Finland and one from France were attributed to G. marginata and G. unicolor, respectively. Seven North American exposures included two fatalities from Washington due to G. venenata, with five cases reacting positively to treatment; four poisonings were caused by G. autumnalis from Michigan and Kansas, in addition to poisoning caused by an unidentified Galerina species from Ohio. Several poisonings have been attributed to collectors consuming the mushrooms after mistaking them for the hallucinogenic Psilocybe stuntzii. ------------ alerina autumnalis is a deadly poisonous mushroom, rather common in our area and just about everywhere else I've looked. It can be found in relatively wet forests on very well decayed wood. Usually the wood I find it on is almost falling apart, with the substrate log lying on the ground and often covered with moss. Galerina seems to colonize the wood only in the wake of other fungi that have already partially broken it down. At least I've only seen it fruiting on such decrepit looking wood. Has anyone found it on intact wood? Galerina also seems to have a very long fruiting season and fruits multiple times each year from the same mycelium. I think I've found it in every month that we don't have snow. Galerina autumnalis can be identified by its brown cap, with a relatively small fragile annulus (ring) on the stipe (stem). The lower part of the stipe is usually darker brown, sometimes with apparent floccules, or little tufts of hyphae. Above the annulus (the remnant of the partial veil), the stipe is usually lighter tan in color and lacks ornamentation. The gills are about the same color as the top of the stipe and darken with age. The mushrooms are usually not very big, with the caps only about an inch or two (2-5 cm) in diameter and the stipes are usually less than 2 inches (5 cm). The spore print is a rusty brown. Microscopically, the asidiospores typically have a plage, which looks to me like a slightly wrinkled plastic shrink-wrap covering over the distal end of the spore, but not the end where the spore attached to the basidium. You can often see the faint jagged line delimiting the end of the plage. Why am I telling you all these details of what this mushroom looks like? If you are planning on eating wild mushrooms, Galerina is a mushroom you must be able to identify by sight, since eating even just a little of it can be deadly. Galerina autumnalis, photo by Sean Westmoreland, M.S.The toxin contained in Galerina is the same toxin, a-amanitin, contained in the destroying angels, Amanita virosa, A. verna, A. bisporigera, and A. ocreata. It induces exactly the same symptoms: The toxin in Galerina (and in the death angels) is a relatively small protein of eight amino acids, a cyclopeptide called a-amanitin. According to John W. Rippon, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago in Medical Mycology, a-amanitin works by slowly attacking the enzyme RNA polymerase. Although RNA polymerase occurs in all body cells, the cells of the liver are particularly affected because the body tries to sequester (and accumulate) toxins in the liver, and those cells are damaged the most. The a-amanitin ultimately affects the central nervous system and kidneys. Unlike many fungal toxins it does not cause symptoms right away. As long as 6-24 hours after ingestion there may be an early feeling of unease, followed by violent cramps and diarrhoea. On the third day, there is a remission of symptoms, but this is a false remission. On the 4th to 5th day the enzymes increase, and liver and kidneys are severely affected. Death often follows if a liver transplant or other heroic measures are not performed. There is no cure for ingestion of the poison once it gets this far, but doctors are getting much better at treating the symptoms. This is *not* a mushroom you want to mess around with. Armillaria and Galerina growing together Fortunately, cases in which someone eats Galerina on purpose are very rare. The mushroom is not particularly attractive looking and their small size deems them unworthy of gathering for the table. The major danger with Galerina is accidentally and carelessly placing some Galerina fruiting bodies into your collecting basket along with mushrooms they superficially resemble, such as Armillaria gallica, the honey mushroom or Flammulina velutipes, the velvet stem mushroom. Here's the scenario: Sometimes you're lucky (or skilled) and find lots of these edible Armillaria and Flammulina. You find so many that picking them becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. You stop paying attention to every mushroom you place in your basket. You accidentally cut off a Galerina or two or more and place them in with the edible mushrooms. You're so tired and hungry when you get home that you just dump your mushrooms into a skillet and fry them up. You accidentally eat some Galerina. Two or three days later you die. Moral of the story: You must identify every single mushroom in your basket to species and know everything about it, either through books or reputable websites (although I cannot take responsibility for anything that you might eat), before you can even think about eating it. You must be absolutely sure of your identification, since a meal of mushrooms is not worth the price of your life. The major most obvious difference between Galerina and those two edible species is that Galerina has a rusty brown spore print, while Armillaria and Flammulina have white spore prints. There have also been examples of people dying from eating Galerina when they think they are eating hallucinogenic Psilocybe species, which also have a brown spore print. The series of photos to the left shows Armillaria gallica and Galerina autumnalis growing side by side on the same log. In these pictures Armillaria is on the left and Galerina is on the right. Be careful! This mushroom disproves the Italian immigrant tradition that any mushroom that grows on wood is edible. In North America, and probably most parts of the world, this is definitely not true! Another major exception to this is the Jack-O-Lantern mushroom, Omphalotus olearius, which is not deadly, but gives such violent gastrointestinal symptoms that is makes you wish you were dead. John Rippon has told me of several such cases of Italian immigrant poisonings in the Chicago area while he was a professor there. largest Galerina I've ever seen There are many other species of Galerina throughout the world. Galerina species have been found on all continents except Antarctica. Rolf Singer (The Agaricales in Modern Taxonomy, 1986) recognized 169 species, and he expected there to be more species discovered in Asia and Africa. In North America, the highest species diversity of Galerina I have seen has been in the Pacific Northwest, along the Pacific coast from northern California to Alaska. There see to be Galerina fruiting bodies *everywhere* out there, especially on moss-covered logs. Most of the species are much smaller than G. autumnalis in our area. To the right is a particularly large cluster of Galerina we found several years ago in Wisconsin. You could easily mistake this cluster for Armillaria if you didn't pay attention to the spore print or the gill color. The stipes of these specimens were about 4 inches tall and the caps were about 2 inches across.