Amanita Muscaria a breathtaking mushroom
The Sportsman’s Report
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By Bill Hanson  November 15, 2013 12:00 am

I was on a foray with the local mushroom club, and when we took three steps into the bush, there was a scene I’ve never seen. There were dozens of the beautiful Amanita Muscaria. 

In a zone about 20-by-20 feet, they were grouped together and shiny – from just emergent young knobs to fully opened in stunning glory. The Muscaria (Fly Agaric) is the red capped mushroom with a covering of golden warts, sometimes the warts are pure white. In Disneyland, they are displayed with huge white spots. 

I may have taken my young ones on a ride with the Muscaria once, The Mad Tea Party I think. I think it’s time I took the grandkids, they are about the same age as their parents were then.

There is some serious lore around the beautiful Muscaria. In Russia and the Ukraine, there is a folklore that says if you eat the skin on the cap, warts and all, then drink your pee later, you can get high. Can’t wait to try that one. 

In modern lore, there is a school of thought that says 40 percent of the people that eat Muscaria have a mild hallucinogenic effect and 40 percent report varying degrees of stomach upset. The remaining 20 percent claim that there is no flavor or anything else. I encourage you to stand with me in the vast majority and just admire them, they are incredibly beautiful.

One other issue is that the Muscaria are in the family Amanitace, the family that has three or more deadly poisonous mushrooms responsible for more deaths than any other mushroom family. One notable death occurred in the 90s in Sonoma. The eldest son of a prominent wine making family prepared a meal with Amanita, one Amanita is an excellent edible, the A. Calyptroderma (Coccora). His guests refused to partake in the meal. The host, well in his cups, derided them for being chicken hearts. Four days later he was on his death bed, his liver turning rapidly to mush.

The Coccora is worth knowing but it is not a beginner mushroom. Try one only if it is checked out by a reputable mushroom person or on a display table and your catch, every one of your catch, is reviewed by experienced mushroomers. Be sure to dig deep under the base of the Amanita. There is an egg cup or vulva and how it is attached to the stalk is an important part of the ID. The game is you bet your life. Don’t!

To view the Muscaria and other Amanita go to  http://www.mykoweb.com/CAF/species/Amanita_calyptroderma.html.

 

Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.

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