Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria)

KingdomFungi
PhylumBasidiomycota
ClassBasidiomycetes
OrderAgaricales
FamilyAmanitaceae
GenusAgaricus (1)
SizeCap diameter: 8-10 cm (2)
Stem (stipe) height: 8-18 cm (2)
Stem (stipe) diameter: 1-2 cm (2)

A common, widespread species (3).

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.

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).

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

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).

This fungus is not threatened.

Conservation action has not been targeted at this species.

For more on the fly agaric, see:

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

  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