Death Cap

Amanita phalloides

Copyright, Clive Shirley

The Death Cap is responsible for the most mushroom poisonings in the world. It looks a lot like other mushrooms which people eat (compare it to the Honey Mushroom on this site). It has a cap up to six inches wide, and a stalk up to five inches tall. The cap can be yellowish, brownish, whitish, or greenish in color. It is often sticky to the touch. Underneath the cap, this mushroom has white gills (feathery things). At the base of the stalk is a white cup.

Death Caps are seen from September to November underneath pines, oaks, dogwoods, and other trees.

Copyright, Fred Stevens

Copyright, Fred Stevens

Like all mushrooms, Death Caps are only part of the fungus. Most of the fungus is in the soil or wrapped around tree roots. These tiny thread-like parts, called mycelia, are there all year. The mushroom that you see is like the flower on a plant. It "blooms" at certain times of the year.

The mushrooms contain spores, which are like seeds on a plant. The spores spread and grow new fungi. Death Caps have a foul smell which attracts flies and other insects. When the insects touch the gills, spores stick to them. Then, when the insects fly away, the spores go with them. Each spore may get a chance to grow into a new fungus.

Death Caps are a type of fungus which has a mycorrhizal relationship with trees. This special relationship means that the fungus wraps its mycelia around tree roots. The fungus then gives the tree special nutrients from the soil that it couldn't get by itself. This helps the tree stay healthy and strong. In return, the fungus can pull different nutrients from the tree roots that it would not get on its own. Therefore, the fungus and tree help each other. This is why you almost always see Death Caps underneath trees. You may see just a few, or there may be hundreds of mushrooms under the same tree.

Some scientists believe the Death Cap was introduced from Europe, others believe it is a native species.

Relationships in Nature:

Animals Using as Food Source

Animals Using as Shelter

Associations With Plants


Fungus Gnat

Fungus Gnat

Eastern White Pine

Blue Bottle Fly D

Horned Fungus Beetle

Horned Fungus Beetle

Loblolly Pine

Loblolly Pine My

Virginia Pine

Virginia Pine My

Black Oak

Eastern White Pine My

White Oak

Flowering Dogwood My

Flowering Dogwood

Black Oak My

White Oak My

Relationship to Humans:

Death Caps are extremely poisonous and will likely kill you if you eat one! REMEMBER, NEVER EAT A MUSHROOM FROM THE WILD, even if you think you know what it is. People who die from Death Caps or other poisonous mushrooms almost always ate it because they thought it was something else.

Someone who eats a Death Cap will not feel any symptoms for 10 to 14 hours. Then the person will experience vomitting, diarrhea, and cramps. After awhile, these symptoms will go away and the person will feel fine. They are not fine. Three or four days after eating the mushroom, the person will have kidney or liver failure. He/she will die five to ten days after eating the Death Cap.

Death Caps help us indirectly, by helping trees grow. These trees provide fresh oxygen, and food for animals.


Amanita phalloides


Organism Menu
Student Activities
Classification Info
How to Use This Site