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Are coral mushrooms actually poisonous?

 
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I need to ask everyone's opinions here - I've been growing up eating coral mushrooms my entire life, in Michigan. My Native American great grandma showed her kids and my mom how to harvest them, and we'd always fry them up and eat them. I recently learned from someone who is a forager that coral mushrooms are poisonous, and I looked it up, and it appears to be true. How odd - none of us have ever gotten sick. As far as species go, I don't know the species, but we'd pick them when they were fresh and whitish, and avoided rotten or dry ones for obvious reasons. They'd typically grow in cedar or maple/beech forests.

Have you ever eaten coral mushrooms and got sick? Are coral mushrooms actually poisonous, or is this a miscommunication between two cultures?
 
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I could be wrong, as mushroom identification is not a strong suit of mine, but it seems possible that there is more than one species of mushroom that people refer to as coral mushrooms. When I searched "coral mushroom", I was seeing mushrooms from different genera and species come up. It seems like that could lead to confusion when communicating about them and about their edibility. I was reading that some coral mushrooms are edible and other poisonous. I see that you aren't sure of the species. Do you by chance have a picture of the mushroom that might aid in figuring out which species it is?
 
pollinator
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I know NOTHING about "coral mushrooms" but suspect as already mentioned that what you ate as a child was likely something different and this was the "local" name for it.

Again. I know nothing about mushrooms, only that even those supposedly skilled in wild foraging, children and pets die from accidentally or intentionally consuming them every year, here.  

But, you mention a curious query as to native or indigenous populations... I too wonder if this has relevance. We do see this in lots of edibles, such as milk.  Certain populations have low incidences of lactose intolerance (northern Europeans) and others higher incidences (equatorial/African) is it possible that a mushroom labeled toxic may not be so, for all, from a heritage or genetic perspective?  Could it be that generational exposure over centuries could allow some to have evolved and changed to adapt to local foodstuffs? I think that makes perfect sense, and be entirely possible, in this case.

There are also widely varying degrees on the toxicity scale dependent on the amount eaten, and how it is prepared. It could be this is a low toxicity species, and unless consumed by a very small person (child?) or in large quantities, or if cooked in a particular manner it can be safely consumed in moderation.  Plus, the definition of toxic in mushrooms does not mean deadly; it seems to reference any sort of negative reaction, ranging from a simple "upset" tummy to complete failure of one or more vital organs causing permanent damage or even death.

Still, mushrooms are a fickle fungi, unless 100% positive with an ID and safety of wild grown mushrooms, it would be wise to err on the side of caution. Most communities have local experts/college that can verify WHAT type of mushroom this is. Until that is done I suggest extreme caution.

***all this is based on research done when I get the "my dog ate this (plant/berry/mushroom) is it dangerous" call.

There is a FB Group, primarily for medical professionals (human or animal), where an extensive volunteer group of experts triage such inquiries (no public input is allowed) from around the world. They are essentially poison control for any sort of vegetation or fungi; dealing with only credible, known ingestions (they will NOT respond to generic or non-life threatening queries and rapidly delete such posts).

They first identify the plant matter, the toxicity, and (based on quantity consumed and size of the patient) provide their opinion on the risk. They then identify the toxic agents, and what systems (heart, lung, kidney, liver, and/or brain) the toxins MAY affect and the accompanying symptoms.  They DO NOT provide medical advice; only inform the Doc of what toxins are present and the systems they will target.

This provides the critical information the medical personnel uses to decide how best to treat the patients current, evolving and/or expected symptoms AND determine the best measures to counter the actions of the specified toxins (vomiting, flushing, meds, supportive care etc.).
 
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There are different species of coral mushrooms, as shown by these links. One is mildly poisonous and the other is edible:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramaria_formosa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clavulina_cristata

As with many mushrooms, be careful what you forage as there are several look-a-likes in the mushroom world.
 
Anne Miller
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Found a couple of threads with more information that might be of interest and pictures:

https://permies.com/t/9754/spiky-fungus

https://permies.com/t/41169/cauliflower-fungus
 
pollinator
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Back to the importance of learning the latin name for fungi and plants, many plants and fungus share the same local name but are not even remotely related.

There are also other possibilities, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca,  for example (false chanterelle) Is according to most sources poisonous but I grew up eating it, delving deeper it apparently only causes stomach upsets in some people and my family are obviously not among those "some people" It could be that your coral mushroom has a similar effect.
 
G May
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From what I've researched, it seems that what we ate is not deadly or toxic, just causes gastrointestinal upset.  I can't identify the actual species online, only in the wild. It would be interesting to learn about genetic differences and tolerances to an environment, I already know that mosquitos don't bite me much and I don't get allergies when I'm in a specific part of Michigan. That is definitely not true for the rest of the country, where I'm mosquito food and allergic to a lot of pollen.
 
G May
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Ramaria formosa actually looks the most similar to what we've gathered, but I think we've gathered both. I do remember there being two types in the forest, one thicker, yellower, more antlery looking one, and one paler and thinner (ramaria).
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