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Deadly brain-shrinking fungus popping up in parks, several prefectures throughout Japan

Sightings of the deadly poison fire coral fungus increased in Japan in the month of July, with reports coming from the prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Fukui.
The world's second-deadliest fungal species after the so-called Destroying Angel (amanita virosa), Podostroma cornu-damae, otherwise known as the poison fire coral in English and kaentake (literally "fire mushroom") in Japanese, is native to Japan and Korea but has also been found in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and some parts of Australia. With its fiery red color and unusual coral-like shape, it stands out from the dark brown and green shades of dirt, moss, fallen leaves, and other vegetation at the foot of trees where it thrives.
However, you would be ill-advised to eat it. Containing several trichothecene mycotoxins, its fruiting bodies are lethal to humans. Several poisonings have been reported, most recently in 1999 when a man in Niigata died after eating one or two grams soaked in sake and in 2000 when a man in Gunma died after eating the mushroom fried.
Should you be unfortunate to consume it, your symptoms will range from not only stomach aches and vomiting but possibly peeling skin, hair loss, decreases in white blood cells and platelets, organ failure and even a decrease in motor functions, speech, and perception due to shrinking of the cerebellum. Yes, you read that right. This fungus actually shrinks your brain.
And if that weren't bad enough, the poison fire coral is one of the rare fungi believed to cause rashes, swelling, and irritation of the skin by merely touching it.

An increase in sightings in Japan


According to TV Asahi, several specimens of poison fire coral were discovered in a park in the ??????? Zama Yatoyama Park in Zama City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Park Director Masashi Sugawara explained that staff happened to find the mushroom at the foot of trees in several locations, both in areas inaccessible to the public and in a public area next to a log cabin. They promptly removed the mushrooms with a shovel, including the soil around them, to make sure no mycelia were left behind.
Although the poison fire coral is most common in fall, it can in fact thrive between June and December. As long as there is plenty of humidity, it is impervious to changes in temperature. Since there have been many rainy days and a series of localized heavy rains in July, conditions were ripe for an outbreak.
In addition to Zama City, where the park is located, sightings have also been reported in Yokohama City, Kawasaki City, and Atsugi City in Kanagawa Prefecture, as well as Chiba and Fukui prefectures.
According to Tokyo University of Agriculture Professor Kimiko Hashimoto, poison fire coral thrives on a pathogenic fungus growing in Japanese oak trees affected by Japanese Oak Wilt disease, which is in turn spread by the oak ambrosia beetle.
Damage from the disease has been confirmed in 42 prefectures so far, with Kanagawa Prefecture in particular seeing a fifteen-fold increase in just the last three years. Therefore, it is likely that poison fire coral will continue to thrive.
If you're visiting parks or hiking in the forest in Japan, it's wise to avoid eating, let alone touching any mushrooms you find in the wild unless you are knowledgeable in mushrooms or have a knowledgeable guide with you. There are plenty of delicious edible mushrooms such as shiitake, maitake, eringi, enoki and, if you can afford it, even matsutake, for you to enjoy if you buy them in supermarkets or find them on the menu at restaurants.
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