Amanita Muscaria Identification

Identification marks

This is the most variable Amanita in a number of features. In some forms the cap is white, in some yellow or orange, and in some blood red. The pieces of the outer veil adorn the surface and, as some have commented, remind one of patches or particles of cottage cheese. The stalk usually has two or more zones of torn tissue above the apex of of the bulb. This is all there is by way of a volva. In conifer plantations of Michigan a white form is frequently encountered, but the common variant east of the Great Plains is yellow to orange. In the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific coast a blood red form occurs, and the orange form is less abundant. The volva is never pouch-like (saccate)- in the manner shown for A. verna- any reports in the literature notwithstanding.

Edibility

Poisonous. However, some people extract the poison and then eat the mushrooms, apparently with no ill effects. They claim it is a most delicious species. The instructions, as I have heard them, are to parboil the specimens in salt water until no more yellow scum comes to the surface. Presumably, the poison is the yellow scum- and this is discarded. Anyone who wishes to try this technique should do so strictly at his own risk as far as I am concerned. Under no circumstances should one eat A. muscaria cooked in the usual manner for mushrooms.
Though poisonings by this species are not usually fatal, the experience is one not soon forgotten. One dangerous aspect of this species is that the unexpanded buttons may be mistaken for puffballs. This has happened in the Rocky Mountain states. To avoid this cut each puffball half lengthwise. If it is an Amanitabutton, you can see the outline of the cap and gills and the beginnings of the stalk.

Where and where to find it

East of the Great Plains it is common under aspen and pine. In the Pacific Northwest I have seen it mostly under spruce and fir. It fruits in June and early July and then again in late August and September in the lake states. It is a summer species in the Rockies, and along the Pacific coast a fall to winter species.

-p. 177, The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide: Revised and Enlarged by Alexander H. Smith (1973)

Colour image from Morel Mushroom Hunting

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Amanita Muscaria
Amanita Muscaria
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