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Click image to see larger view of Conocybe (Conocybe) View Larger Image

Conocybe mushrooms grow commonly in Nova Scotia in pastures or other open, grassy areas. They are often gathered by individuals mistaking them for Psilocybe species. Like many fungi, they rapidly lose moisture and dry out, appearing like any other little brown mushroom.

Conocybe filaris (Deadly Conocybe) is common in Nova Scotia and contains deadly amanitins (cyclopeptides) like those found in the Destroying Angel (Amanita spp.) and can be lethal if consumed.

Although there are a few species of Conocybe that contain psychoactive compounds, most don’t occur in Nova Scotia. The chances that local species can be mistaken for the deadly Conocybe, or may also be poisonous, are high. Refrain from eating any little brown mushrooms, the consequences from a mistaken identification can be unpleasant at best and deadly in the worst case scenario.


All parts of Conocybe filaris, and probably other species, contain toxins. Poison concentration varies within mushrooms and among geographical locations where they are found. Cooking or processing toxic mushrooms will not destroy the toxins in most cases.


Amanitins, a group of cyclic peptides, are among the most lethal organic compounds in the world. Tiny amounts have deadly results in humans, though squirrels and rabbits seem to be able to nibble these fungi without suffering amanitin poisoning (although few people have likely followed these animals for the 6-24 hours that it typically takes for the symptoms to develop).


Since most “little brown mushrooms (LBM’s)” all look very similar this sort of poisoning usually occurs when inexperienced mushroom gatherers accidentally collect them as food, or inadvertently collect them along with those containing psychoactive compounds. Sadly, because the effects of cyclic peptides are delayed by their chemistry, the poisoning is often discovered too late to prevent major organ damage, or death, of the victim.

It is not true that mushrooms nibbled by wildlife are safe for human consumption. There are only a very few choice, edible fungi native to Nova Scotia, so it is best to learn which are safe to eat from an expert and avoid eating all others.

When collecting wild mushrooms, always retain an uncooked specimen for later study should you fall ill from eating your harvest. Your only chance in the event of poisoning is prompt, accurate identification of the fungus and its toxin, so that treatment and monitoring can be more effective.


Amanitin poisoning is not a pleasant experience. The onset of symptoms does not normally begin for about 10 hours, long enough for the victim to forget about a mushroom meal. When the toxin finally affects the victim, it causes severe abdominal upset, cramps, violent vomiting and diarrhea, followed by liver and kidney failure. Additionally, there is typically a short remission of symptoms 1-2 days after consumption, which complicates diagnosis and may give a false impression of recovery. Although treatment is possible if the correct diagnosis of amanitin poisoning is made early (1-2 hours after consumption), there is no known antidote; and the damage to liver, kidneys and other systems is severe enough to cause a painful death.


Proteins and Amino Acids

Proteins and amino acids are complex chemicals necessary to all living cells; most are highly beneficial, not harmful. Chains of amino acids form proteins; if more than two are joined, they are called peptides, rings of amino acids joined together make cyclopeptides like amanitins, some of which are the most deadly poisons known.



Poison Centre Information
Nova Scotia Museum