Mushroom hunters poisoned

Inside a False Morel Mushroom / file photo

The University of Illinois Extension office says that although last year was a bust for mushroom hunters, expectations are high for 2011.

While morel mushrooms are fairly easy to identify, there are some false morels out there to be on the lookout for.

Health officials north of the Tri-States say they're getting reports of mushroom hunters being hospitalized after eating poisonous morel lookalikes.

The false Morels fruit in the same places at about the same time as edible Morel mushrooms. In false morels, the fruit bodies or the mushroom itself, is wrinkled rather than honeycombed. Also, true morels are completely hollow and false ones can be quite heavy or solid in the stem and meaty throughout.

When in doubt, don't eat it! If you're a beginning mushroom hunter, take along a experienced hunter that can help you identify the edible mushrooms.

Some of the symptoms of mushroom poisoning are stomach cramps, sweating, hot flushes, vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, high pulse, irregular heartbeat, lowering of blood pressure, headache, weakness, dizziness, faintness, blurred vision, constriction of the pupils, breathing and chest problems, lassitude, excessive thirst, loss of coordination, hallucinations, vertigo, confusion, delirium, convulsions, and finally coma.

Morel hunting is a tradition in the Tri-States, where do-it-yourself pickers scour woods for the mushroom that has a short growing season.