This section is from the book "A Guide To The Poisonous Plants And Weed Seeds Of Canada And The Northern United States", by Robert Boyd Thomson, H. B. Sifton. Also available from Amazon: A guide to the poisonous plants and weed seeds of Canada and the northern United States.
Other Common Names: Poison Amanita, Bulbous Amanita.
The name "Death Cup," with its sinister suggestion, has been well earned by this fungus, for it is responsible for even more deaths than its near relative, the Fly Agaric. The Death Cup, while sometimes coloured, is often pure white and very attractive in appearance. Its taste is pleasant, and the victim has no warning of the trouble in store until, after some hours, the effects of the poison begin to be felt, often too late for remedy.
The principal poison is phallin, an extremely deadly member of the group called toxalbumens, which chemically resemble ordinary albumens such as white of egg. Like white of egg, phallin coagulates if boiled. If the Death Cup were prepared by soaking in salt water, in which the phallin is soluble, and thoroughly cooked it would produce no harm, but in too many cases where this toadstool is mistaken for a wholesome mushroom such precautions are not taken and fatal results follow.
Robert studied the effect of phallin thoroughly in 1891. and discovered that the poison acts chiefly on the blood corpuscles, which are dissolved. The blood becomes unable to perform its functions, blood serum escapes into the intestine, and the vitality of the whole system is lowered until death results. The first effects do not appear until nine to twelve hours after eating, when abdominal pain begins, sometimes accompanied By cramps in the legs, convulsions and lockjaw resembling tetanus. Vomiting and diarrhoea follow, and these symptoms continue till death, which may not take place for from two to four days. "Rice water" stools as in the case of cholera, are said to be a characteristic symptom.
When the poisoning is discovered, care should be taken to remove all undigested parts of the toadstool from the stomach and intestine. There is no known antidote for phallin, but if the symptoms indicate the presence of muscarin-like substances the drugs used in case of poisoning by Fly Agaric should be administered. Blood transfusion with salt solution or with healthy blood may in some cases be effective against the action of the phallin.
The fungus grows usually in woods, or along their borders. It is from three to six inches high, with a cap three to five inches broad, any colour from pure white to olive or brown. It is usually smooth, but has sometimes a few patches of membrane adhering to the top. The gills, spores, and stalk are white. The latter has a conspicuous ring beneath the cap, and its bulbous base is enclosed in a membranous cup, the "Death Cup." The bulb is buried deeply, and is often left behind in gathering the fungus. The stalk is hollow, or when young loosely filled with material suggestive of cotton fibre.