Amanita muscaria

| 19 Comments

Photograph by David Young.

Amanita muscaria mushroom at Maroon Bells.jpg

Amanita muscaria – fly amanita, or fly agaric, Maroon Bells, Colorado.

19 Comments

What treasure!!! Thank you for sharing!!

Looks like a hallucination. Or something.

Glen Davidson

Looking for the smurfs.

Looks good enough to eat! No, wait a minute…

I found many of these guys out mushroom picking when I lived on the west coast of B.C. I remember one time when I was just a tot, I stumbled across one and was enthralled with its resemblance to the Mario mushrooms. I went to grab it, and my mother promptly slapped my hand away…

So, they’re called “fly agaric” because women from the Balkans used to collect these mushrooms, cut them up and place the pieces in saucers of milk. Flies would drink from the tainted milk and die from convulsions. Though, how the women would keep cats away from these saucers I don’t know.

“The Sacred Mushroom”, according to John Allegro.

apokryltaros said:

So, they’re called “fly agaric” because women from the Balkans used to collect these mushrooms, cut them up and place the pieces in saucers of milk. Flies would drink from the tainted milk and die from convulsions. Though, how the women would keep cats away from these saucers I don’t know.

I suspect the cats and other critters drawn to the milk might have, among many possibilities, detected the poison or there was not enough poison to contaminate the milk for the bigger critters to be adversely effected.

It’s all an urban legend, widespread but totally untrue. The fly agaric does not even kill flies, let alone humans. It’s hallucinogenic, but only mildly poisonous. I don’t think any deaths from eating it are reported in modern medical publications. I’m Polish, and like many of my compatriots I regularly go mushroom-picking. I can recognise dozens of edible and poiusonous species. I learnt as a very young kid how deadly the fly agaric was – the “don’t touch it” meme is certainly very strong in this case. It may go back all the way to the time when Amanita muscaria had shamanistic applications and was associated with dangerous magic. In some countries they boil it long in salted water, which detoxifies the agaric completely (the water has to be strained off).

By contrast, two other species of Amanita, the death cap (A. phalloides) and the destroying angel (A. virosa) are really deadly (and responsible for nearly 100% of deaths from mushroom poisonings in my part of the world). They can’t be confused with the fly agaric unless you are completely blind. Neither of them kills insects or snails, by the way.

In researching this marvelous fungus (w/o ever having seen one – jealous!), I understood that the “fly” part of the title is because flies are attracted to the mushroom itself (no milk required) and that the term “toadstool” is derived from this predominance of flies congregating around certain mushrooms. The toads knew where to sit – to eat flies, not because they love this gorgeous mushroom.

Youtube has videos of people eating it raw. I guess they could leave out the part where the eater perishes, but my understanding was that you’ll become very physically ill but may then have visionary or shamanic experiences. For Siberian shamans, this species was an important part of ritual and community building. Neat.

The Polish word for the genus Amanita is “muchomor”, which can be translated as ‘fly-exterminator’. The name must be old, since it has cognates in other Slavic and Baltic languages. I learnt from my late grandmother that the fly agaric was used for preparing fly-killing concoctions when she was young. All this is very strange in view of the empirical fact that no species of Amanita is toxic to insects. I suspect they were simply *attracted* by the agaric and drowned in the milk.

Piotr Gąsiorowski said:

The Polish word for the genus Amanita is “muchomor”

…czerwony … right? Luckily, unlike all the other deadly Amanitas, the Red Fly Killer is only psychoactive. Very commonly ingested by the Koryak people medicinally, apparently.

Another Amanita (the orange-coloured A. caesarea, or Caesar’s mushroom) is not only edible but regarded as a great delicacy in some countries. Quite a range of effects in a single genus! Some kill you in a rather gruesome way, some give you a high, some are just good tasty stuff.

I’ve just had an omelette with saffron milk-cups (Lactarius deliciosus) – highly recommended!

What I have read is that A. muscaria mushroom in the Americas is not very psychedelic, if at all. Of course the psilocybin mushrooms are, but that’s quite a different matter.

Glen Davidson

https://me.yahoo.com/a/JxVN0eQFqtmg[…]X_Zhn8#57cad said:

What I have read is that A. muscaria mushroom in the Americas is not very psychedelic, if at all. Of course the psilocybin mushrooms are, but that’s quite a different matter.

Glen Davidson

The degree of psychedelic strength in fly agaric depends on geographical strain: the Ural Mountain and Scandinavian strains being the strongest.

Piotr Gąsiorowski said:

Another Amanita (the orange-coloured A. caesarea, or Caesar’s mushroom) is not only edible but regarded as a great delicacy in some countries. Quite a range of effects in a single genus! Some kill you in a rather gruesome way, some give you a high, some are just good tasty stuff.

I’ve just had an omelette with saffron milk-cups (Lactarius deliciosus) – highly recommended!

The Caesar’s Amanita is said to be one of the most delicious mushrooms in the world: I read that the taste is comparable to that of chestnuts, and the mushroom is best enjoyed (most ominously) when eaten raw or lightly cooked. Allegedly, this was Julius Caesar’s favorite mushroom. Pliny the Elder said that the taste makes truffles seem like “tumors of the earth.”

The Blusher Amanitas are another group of edible amanitas, but, they can only be enjoyed cooked, as otherwise, the raw blushers have compounds that rupture red blood cells.

John said:

Piotr Gąsiorowski said:

The Polish word for the genus Amanita is “muchomor”

…czerwony … right? Luckily, unlike all the other deadly Amanitas, the Red Fly Killer is only psychoactive. Very commonly ingested by the Koryak people medicinally, apparently.

Only in very, very small amounts. Otherwise, Fly Agaric will cause very painful and potentially fatal kidney and liver failure.

I’ve eaten what we called Amanita caesarea several times but it scares the shit out of me, particularly since there are a couple of very similar looking forms in the southeast and I’m not up to date on Amanita taxonomy and systematics.

I ate a grisette once (Amanita vaginata complex) but will probably forego experimenting with this group in my old age.

I will only try A. muscaria if you have some reindeer

The Blusher Amanitas are another group of edible amanitas, but, they can only be enjoyed cooked, as otherwise, the raw blushers have compounds that rupture red blood cells.

They are very common in Poland. Mushrooming guides classify them as edible (if well boiled), but few people – including expert mushroom pickers – touch them even if it means coming back home empty-handed. There seems to be a traditional taboo surrounding all Amanita species. Paradoxically, the ones that people really recognise and avoid (red, reddish or yellow, with white-spotted caps) are relatively harmless (and sometimes good to eat). The ones that can kill you are somewhat similar to the man-on-horseback (Tricholoma equestre) or one of the edible Russulas, and mistaken for them. They are responsible for practically all fatal mushroom poisonings in my country (about a dozen yearly, which isn’t a lot, given that at least a few hundered thousand Poles collect wild mushrooms regularly)

Piotr Gąsiorowski said:

responsible for practically all fatal mushroom poisonings in my country (about a dozen yearly, which isn’t a lot, given that at least a few hundered thousand Poles collect wild mushrooms regularly)

I love this thread (and no one should take safety advice re ingestion from me, I do not know anything for certain). When I lived in Ukraine, *everybody* knew their mushrooms. Sadly, hunting them I only ever found a “pohanka” (ones to avoid). Yet there were far more than a dozen annual poisonings in Ukraine and even more in Russia every year when some folks made wrong judgments. Poles are smarter? ;-)

I admired how my friend used a knife to cut the fruit of the mushroom, leaving the base of the stalk to regrow a new mushroom later. When I told him I admired this generous spirit of not taking but providing for others, he corrected me: “No, it’s only so *I* can come back to this spot and get another!” Miss you Maxim.

My mushroom story from here in Ohio is funny too: in my grocery store, a huge, grubby, bearded mountain man saw me eyeing some beautiful but expensive oyster mushrooms in late winter. He said, “Pah! Pretty soon I can go out and get those for free!” I replied, “I love to do that, but I wouldn’t know where to look.” His eyes widened in crazy shock as he said, “Under the trees!!!”

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 1, 2012 12:00 PM.

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