Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria)

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Fly agaric fact file

Fly agaric description

KingdomFungi
PhylumBasidiomycota
ClassBasidiomycetes
OrderAgaricales
FamilyAmanitaceae
GenusAgaricus (1)

The fly agaric is an attractive, vibrantly coloured toadstool, which is familiar and instantly recognisable (3). It has a bright red cap, which fades to an orange or orange-yellowish colour with age. The fluffy white spots on the cap often take on a yellowish tinge as they grow old, and may occasionally be washed away by rain (4). The stem has a bulbous base, and tapers towards the cap (3). This fungus is dangerously poisonous and should NEVER be tasted (2). The name fly agaric derives from the fact that since medieval times it was commonly used as a fly killer, broken up in milk or sprinkled with sugar (3).

WARNING: Many species of fungus are poisonous or contain chemicals that can cause sickness. Never pick and eat any species of fungus that you cannot positively recognise or are unsure about. Some species are deadly poisonous and can cause death within a few hours if swallowed.

Size
Cap diameter: 8-10 cm (2)
Stem (stipe) height: 8-18 cm (2)
Stem (stipe) diameter: 1-2 cm (2)
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Fly agaric biology

Fungi are neither plants nor animals but belong to their own kingdom. They are unable to produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis, as plants do; instead, they acquire nutrients from living or dead plants, animals, or other fungi, as animals do. In many larger fungi (lichens excepted) the only visible parts are the fruit bodies, which arise from a largely unseen network of threads called 'hyphae'. These hyphae permeate the fungus's food source, which may be soil, leaf litter, rotten wood, dung, and so on, depending on the species (4).

The fly agaric is found from August to November in Europe, and from June to October in North America (3). It grows solitarily or in scattered groups (2). Fly agaric is eaten by reindeers, and is associated with Christmas in many parts of Europe. It has even been suggested that the use of fly agaric in midwinter festivals in Siberia may have been the inspiration for some of the features of Santa Clause, including his red and white robes, use of chimneys and his association with flying reindeer (5).

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Fly agaric range

This widespread toadstool occurs in Europe and North America. It was introduced to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand with pine trees imported from Europe (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Fly agaric habitat

Grows under birch and spruce trees on acidic soils (4).

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Fly agaric status

A common, widespread species (3).

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Fly agaric threats

This fungus is not threatened.

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Fly agaric conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this species.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more on the fly agaric, see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Fruit body
In fungi, the fruit body is the visible part of the fungus which bears spores (microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction).
Photosynthesis
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Jan 2003):
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Jordan, M. (1995) The encyclopedia of fungi of Britain and Europe. David and Charles, Devon.
  3. Dickinson, C. and Lucas, J. (1979) The encyclopedia of mushrooms. Orbis Publishing, London.
  4. Courteciusse, R. (1999) Mushrooms of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins Publishers, London.
  5. The Seventh International Mycological Conference : Norwegian fungus of the month, December 1999 Who put the fly agaric into Christmas? (Jan 2003):
    http://www.uio.no/conferences/imc7/NFotm99/December99.htm
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Fly agarics  
Fly agarics

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