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PRETTY POISON: THE RED RUSSULA’S DECEPTIVE CHARM!

In the East Kalimantan’s Kehje Sewen forest, our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team stumbled upon a dazzling find—a radiant crimson mushroom that lit up the dark forest floor. This gem-like discovery, the Russula sp., was a sight to behold with its vivid hue capturing our senses.

This fungus is a Basidiomycota fungus and in this genus of Russula, there are about 750 species globally. The allure of the Russula mushrooms lies in its rich crimson tones. Yet, beneath its enchanting appearance lurks a dangerous threat. This enigmatic fungus has been aptly nicknamed the “sickener” because of can induce nausea and vomiting due to its high toxicity, making it unfit for consumption in most cases. 

Consumption in its raw or undercooked state may lead to dire consequences, including severe stomach cramps and relentless diarrhea. Taste testing may result in a tingling tongue and it should be noted that a few species are cooked and eaten in some regions of the world, but the safety of this practice has been long debated, so in our opinion, it’s best not to try it at all.

Russula sp. creates a mycorrhizal network that is a mutually beneficial interaction with the roots of some trees and plants. This fungus prefers to live on conifers like pine. Through this intricate bond, the mushroom not only thrives but also enhances the overall vitality of the forest. Furthermore, this mushroom serves as a vital food source for insects and even some mammals like squirrels and deer, further emphasising its importance in the forest ecosystem.

Even though cooking them thoroughly might remove the danger, it’s best to admire these mushrooms from a distance. The Russula sp. is a beautiful but tricky temptation—best appreciated from afar!

Text by: Communication Team, BOS Foundation Headquarters, Bogor, West Java

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