The Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria, is one of the most recognizable mushrooms in the world even if most people have no idea what you’re supposed to call it.
People have seen it depicted in drawings and video games their entire life. (The Mario World games depict a red and white spotted mushroom that helps them grow bigger, no doubt a nod to the hallucinogenic Fly Agaric.)
Still, this mushroom is one of the most influential mushrooms in all of the mankind. Some have even considered it the original Soma, the inspiration for the Hindu religion. To understand this, you have to understand the entire mushroom. That’s why we’ve listed it among the top 25 mushrooms to know.
Where is the Fly Agaric found?
Today the Fly Agaric is a circumglobal fungus. Some authors claim that this species was introduced to South America and Africa through the timber industries. While this could very well be true, it does seem hard to validate the claim. It is most common in areas where it can grow with its host trees: pines and birches. Yet, it will grow occasionally with other trees. It already had a distribution in the northern hemisphere, particularly abundant in Siberia, northern Europe, and North America.
Identification of the Fly Agaric Mushroom
Cap: Immature caps are globose to hemispherical. Later in life, they are plate-like. They can reach 8-20 cm in diameter. They are generally bright red with white “warts.” These are the remnants of the universal veil. The red color of the cap can fade with age. Some subspecies are more yellow to almost white.
Gills: The gills are free and white.
Spores: Spores are white. They do not turn blue with iodine.
Stipe: White, 5-20 cm high by 1-2 cm wide. It has a slightly brittle, fibrous texture. At the base of the stipe is a bulb that bears the universal veil remnants in the form of two to four distinct rings or cuffs. Along the stem, there should also be remnants of the partial veil. These look like a ring around the stem.
Taste: Better not taste it. There are many mixed reports. Some say it tastes like chicken. Others say it tastes like fish snacks.
Odor: No associated smell other than mild earthiness
Is it Poisonous or Hallucinogenic?
One question that often pops up when talking about Fly Agaric is its potential as a hallucinogen. Many books list this species simply as a poisonous amanita and give no time to its historical or present use as a mind-altering compound. Truth be told, it is poisonous.
It can kill you if you eat too much of it. But, it is also a psychotropic mushroom if taken in the right quantities. We are not promoting the use of this mushroom and should explain that it doesn’t provide the greatest trip. The potential for extreme liver damage far outweighs the relatively minor trips that you can have.
- Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers by Richard Schultes
- Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares by Greg Marley
A Fly Agaric Time-lapse:
Author Bio: Rob is an ecologist from the University of Hawaii. He is also an award-winning filmmaker. As principle director of the Untamed Science productions his goal is to create videos and content that are both entertaining and educational. When he’s not making science content, he races slalom kayaks and skydives.