Over the past few days, I’ve seen more mushrooms of the genus Amanita than I have since I started paying attention to fungi in our forests. It seemed as if every spot I visited was punctuated by some of these often striking and beautiful mushrooms. I confess that I didn’t do a top rate job of identifying all the amanitas I observed. In some cases, I just noted, “oh, that’s some variety of amanita”. The give-away is the a ring or vulva or in some cases scaly rings around the stock of the mushroom. I’m pretty sure that I observed the following four: Amanita muscaria, the Fly Agaric; Amanita flavoconia, the Yellow Patches; Amanita brunnescens, the Cleft-Footed Amanita; and Amanita virosa, a nasty mushroom lovingly called the Destroying Angel. There were others and yes I ought to have collected them and observed the spore print and compared the vulvas and so on.
Because I usually collect mushrooms to eat, anytime I see a gilled mushroom, I dig under the stipe so that I can see if there is anything like a vulva present. If there is, I know it’s an amanita and I don’t collect it for food. There are some edible amanitas; however, why take even a bit of a chance that you’re having a bad day and misidentify an edible amanita for a Destroying Angel. You can have plenty of regrets in the couple days it takes for this mushroom to destroy vital organs and kill you dead dead dead.
Some of the A. muscaria I observed were very large, with caps in the 8 inch range. That’s a big mushroom. This mushroom is hallucinogenic, and while it may not kill you, it will make you plenty sick. I believe that in our region we only have the yellow and yellow-orange variations of this mushroom, and not the more well-known red jobs with the white splotches.
I observed amanitas not only at each forest I visited. There were some around the cabins I stayed at on Oxtongue Lake. In fact, as I was leaving this morning, I could see an A. muscaria button from the deck of the cabin.
For those who want detailed info on this mushrooms, it’s best to consult a field guide. For our area, I use both Barron’s Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada and Lincoff’s Audubon Field Guide to Mushrooms. Why use both books? The two books are organized differently, so depending on what information you have on hand one or the other can be easier to use. In general, spore prints are white for amanitas. A spore print is an image created by placing a mushroom on a piece of paper, covering it with a bowl, and allowing the spores to drop onto the paper below. It can be a key identifying factor for some mushrooms. These are gilled mushrooms and the gills are free on amanitas, meaning they don’t connect directly to the stem (stipe) of the the mushroom.