Self-confessed “fungi fanatic” Ray Palmer is pursuing his obsession in a tropical rainforest when he stumbles across something utterly unexpected. It’s a fungus that botanists call Podostroma cornu-damae, but it is more familiarly known as poison fire coral. Scientists have always believed it to be a species found only in Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. But Palmer is in neither of those countries; he’s not even in Asia.
Poison fire coral is not something to meddle with, since its toxicity more than lives up to its name. Evidence of this came in 1999 when five Japanese people drank some sake in which they’d soaked one gram of poison fire coral. Sadly, they all died within two days. The fungus is in fact so toxic that just touching it can cause a highly unpleasant reaction.