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January(2011)
Mushroom of the Month was...
Paxillus involutus, the Poison Pax

The Poison Pax or Paxillus involutus.

The poison pax has an ugly dingy brown to murky yellow cap with an inrolled margin until it is fully mature. This mushroom is often eaten in Europe after boiling in several changes of water and probably in America by European immigrants. The poison pax can cause hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and kidney failure when eaten raw. Consumers of the cooked mushrooms can, over time, develop a devastating sensitivity to this mushroom that can lead to kidney failure. It is reported to often have a sour taste so I wonder why it is eaten at all. This is a mushroom to avoid. The only recorded instance of a professional mycologist dying from mushroom poisoning was caused by consuming this mushroom. I have found this mushroom several times here in Michigan so it is one to know and avoid.

Note the inrolled cap on the right.

Paxilluss involutus has a dingy brown to yellowish brown cap that is 1 ½ to 4 ¾ inches wide, convex at first flattening out with age. The cap is extremely inrolled until the mushroom matures thoroughly. The cap is slimy when wet but dry and somewhat hairy otherwise. The pale yellowish gills are decurrent staining dark brown or reddish brown when cut. The yellowish brown stalk is 1 ½ to 4 inches long and ½ to 5/8 inches thick and stains reddish to brown when cut. The thick firm flesh is off white to yellowish usually staining reddish to brown when cut. The mushroom can be found singly or in small groups near or on wood.



The overall appearance of the poison pax is similar to Russula or Lactarius species but the flesh is very firm not brittle like Russulas and the gills do not give off a latex  like the Lactarius when cut.