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Deadly poisonous mushroom found growing in Aurora neighborhood

AURORA, Colo. — A rare and deadly mushroom has been found growing in the metro area for the first time.

It’s called an Amanita, but is more commonly called the “Destroying Angel.” It can kill you if ingested. The only cure is a liver transplant.

On Friday, amateur mushroom forager Lazarus Bell was walking through his Aurora neighborhood near Buckley Road and Hampden Avenue looking for mushrooms when a unique cap caught his eye across the street.

“Even though the whole yard was shady there was like a light beam, like a sun beam hitting it, it was so bright,” he said.

The mushroom was growing in the front yard of a residence. He said he immediately recognized it as an Amanita.

“It’s one of the most deadly mushrooms in the world, period,” he said.

It is commonly found on the East and West coasts. It is very rare to find them in Colorado.

According to the Colorado Mycological Society, only eight of the fungi have ever been found in the state. All were in remote areas between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs.

“It’s something you’d never expect to see in Denver,” Bell said.

He turned his find over to the Colorado Mycological Society, where mushroom expert Linnea Gillman examined it under a microscope. After two tests, she confirmed it is a Destroying Angel.

“There’s a potential there are more. Maybe they’ve been around town and we just haven’t noticed before,” Gillman said.

Wild mushrooms grow throughout Colorado and the metro area including lawns and parks. They can be found in both remote areas and heavy traffic areas.

The Destroying Angel is thought to only grown near oak trees. It is pure white throughout, with a white ring that hangs down around the stem like a skirt.

Under the ground, the base of the stem bulges out like a bulb.

It requires the right combination of moisture and temperature to grow. It is spread through its spores, which are located in the gills underneath the cap.

Gillman has a master’s degree in mushrooms. She spent her career working for the U.S. Forest Service identifying mushrooms and for the past 45 years has been identifying mushrooms for Poison Control.

She now volunteers once per week at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi.

She is drying the mushroom cap and will turn it in to the Denver Botanic Gardens as a specimen for future study.

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