Film Buff in­ves­ti­gates the facts be­hind out­landish movie plots.

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Could the mush­rooms in The Beguiled re­ally be deadly?

This Month The Beguiled’s Toxic ’shrooms


In The Beguiled, a char­ac­ter is served a dish of poi­sonous wood­land mush­rooms and drops dead be­fore pud­ding. Are toad­stools re­ally that deadly?


Ge­off Dann, Fungi and For­ag­ing ex­pert, geoFF­ Poi­sonous mush­rooms can take any­thing from 90 min­utes to 40 years to kill some­one. The fastest-act­ing toxin found in fungi is mus­carine, which can kill within hours if a large dose is con­sumed on an empty stom­ach. Mean­while, the brown roll rim, which can be con­sumed (cooked) with no symp­toms, can cause a be­lated fatal im­mune re­ac­tion sim­i­lar to be­ing given a trans­fu­sion of an in­com­pat­i­ble blood type.

Most poi­sonous fungi con­tain aman­itins, which cause liver and kidney fail­ure. There is also one species, an­gel’s wings, that was widely con­sid­ered edi­ble, but is now known to cause death by mas­sive brain dam­age when large amounts are con­sumed by per­sons with pre-ex­ist­ing kidney prob­lems. You don’t al­ways die from eat­ing poi­sonous mush­rooms, but sur­vival de­pends on the toxin and the dose. On the whole, most of the worst of­fend­ers are wood­land species. Aman­i­tas are found within about 30 me­tres of at least one tree, so it’s re­al­is­tic that the Beguiled girls could find a deadly mush­room in their woods. But is there a mush­room that can kill in min­utes? No.

Ver­dict Bollocks

Edi­ble Mush­rooms - A For­ager’s Guide To Wild Fungi Of Bri­tain, Ire­land And Europe, by Ge­off Dann, is avail­able now.

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