Ray Palmer is a self-confessed, “fungi fanatic.” Mushrooms and fungi were his passion, and this passion took him all over the world. He enjoyed searching for rare types of fungi and mushrooms. His passion for fungus took him to a tropical rainforest, where he discovered something incredible and unexpected. An Asian fungus that causes terrifying symptoms with one touch has been spotted halfway across the world.
While searching the rainforest, he came across a fungus that botanists call, Podostrome cornudamae. This fungus is also known as a poison fire coral. For decades, it has been believed that this species is found in Asian countries such as Korea and Japan. The problem with Ray’s discovery was that he wasn’t in either of these countries. He wasn’t even in Asia.
There are a few reasons that this fungus got its nickname, “poison fire coal.” First, the fungus looks like coral. It has the same shape and color. Since it is bright red, fire is included in the name. Finally, it is called poison because it is highly toxic. For years, people didn’t know the dangers of this fungus. In 1999, five Japanese people drank some sake that they had soaked with one gram of poison fire coral. Within two days, each of the people who consumed the sake were dead. The experts believed that they had no idea what they were putting in their sake, and they didn’t know how toxic it was.
Toxic To the Touch
The experts who treated those who died believed that they were wearing gloves when they picked the fungus. This is because it is toxic to the touch. It is actually the only fungus that is so toxic that just touching it can result in a severe reaction. The experts were sure that if they had touched the mushrooms before adding it to the sake, they would have experienced the adverse reaction, and wouldn’t have tried to consume the fungus.
Confirmation From a Fungi Expert
According to Dr. Matt Barrett, a fungi expert, the poison fire coral is highly unusual. During an interview with the BBC in October 2019, Dr. Barrett said, “Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which toxins can be absorbed through the skin.” This means that merely touching the mushrooms can be deadly.
Where Did Ray Find the Mushroom?
It has always been believed that poison fire coral was found only in Japan and Korea. A few specimens were also discovered in China, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea. This is why Ray was shocked when he was searching a rainforest in Far North Queensland, Australia. He was searching a patch of rainforest in Redlynch, which is a suburb of the city of Cairns. He was concerned that he found something that was lethal and highly toxic, right in his own city.
How Did It Get to Australia?
The question on everyone’s mind was how the deadly fungus got from Asia to Australia. It isn’t like the two places are close to each other. How could a deadly fungus find its way from Asia to Australia? It is highly unlikely that someone would pick the deadly fungus just to plant it in Australia, but Dr. Barrett has an idea of how the fungus got to another continent. He believes that it was a natural occurrence. He says that fungi are dispersed by tiny wind-blown spores, which allows them to travel long distances. Dr. Barrett believes that the spores could have been blown into northern Australia thousands of years ago. He believes that since Australia isn’t a common location where people search for mushrooms and fungi, it was simply overlooked.
Ray Stumbled Upon the Mushrooms
According to Dr. Barrett, Ray was likely the first person to scour that rainforest looking for various types of mushrooms. Most other people who enter the rainforest aren’t looking for mushrooms, and don’t know much about the poison fire coral. Hundreds of people could have stepped right over the fungi without even noticing it. Since Ray knew all about this particular lethal fungi, he didn’t walk right over it. Instead, he got a closer look.
Ray wanted to tell his story to warn others who happen to be out in the rainforests of Australia. He understands how lethal these mushrooms are. Just touching one can cause a severe reaction, and consuming them can result in death. He wanted the people of Australia to understand how dangerous this fungus is, so they can avoid it if they come across it.
Never Consume Unknown Mushrooms
While the poison fire coral is lethal, it isn’t the only type of mushroom out there that is. There are plenty of wild mushrooms that are poisonous when consumed; therefore, you should not try to eat any wild mushroom. The safest way to consume mushrooms is to buy them in the supermarket, where only safe mushrooms are sold.