Jack o’lantern mushroom is a trick, not a treat

Jack o'lantern mushrooms photo by Jason Hollinger
Jack o’lantern mushrooms by Jason Hollinger, Creative Commons

In time for Halloween, jack o’lantern mushrooms are starting to show their faces. We had a call related to this mushroom last week, and they are common from July to October.

Eating a jack o’lantern won’t kill you, but it can leave you very sick, with some of the worst throwing up, stomach cramps or diarrhea you can imagine.

People sometimes eat jack o’lanterns thinking they are chanterelles, which are edible. The two types of mushroom can look pretty similar, and they bloom at the same time. Jack o’lanterns grow in large groups from a single base or stem (as in the picture), whereas chanterelles each have their own stem. In addition, jack o’lanterns have “gills” underneath the head, while chanterelles have ridges or folds.

These differences can be hard to tell. Remember, to avoid mushroom poisonings, only eat wild mushrooms that have been identified by someone with expert training.

If you think someone has eaten a poisonous mushroom, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, or chat with a poison specialist online.

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