The gilled mushrooms, informally referred to as ‘agarics,’ are the type of mushroom with which we are most familiar. The most common edible mushrooms (white/button/portabella mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms), Amanita muscaria – the most recognizable mushroom in the world and the inspiration for almost all mushroom art – and the ‘magic mushrooms’ are all gilled mushrooms. All these mushrooms share one feature: vertical plates of spore-producing tissue stacked under a sterile cap.
mushrooms in the agaric genus Amanita
For the next several weeks, I will examine the major groups of gilled mushrooms. I chose to start this foraging for mushrooms should learn to identify this group. In general, amanitas are umbrella-shaped agarics (FFF#027) that usually display all the following features: a universal veil, a partial veil, free gills, and a white spore print. Well-known amanitas include A. muscaria (FFF#069 and #121) as well as the Destroying Angels (FFF#050).
Across the globe, Amanita muscaria (the “Fly Agaric”) is the go-to mushroom for connecting humans with the divine. I will forego describing this mushroom, since I have already done that in FFF#069. Fortunately, you are familiar with this toadstool. It is the mushroom with a red cap covered in white dots, with white gills underneath, and supported by a white stipe. Probably about 90% of mushroom art is based on this mushroom, so you have definitely seen it around (for example: in Mario games, Disney’s Fantasia, lawn decorations, and Christmas ornaments). Aside from the visual aesthetic the mushroom provides in your daily life, muscaria has had a deep and lasting impact on a variety of cultures around the world, from Hinduism to Siberian shamans to Santa Claus.
You are undoubtedly familiar with this mushroom, even if you recognize neither its scientific name, Amanita muscaria, nor its common name, “The Fly Agaric.” If the word “mushroom” does not immediately bring this fungus to mind, then the word “toadstool” probably does. You have certainly encountered Amanita muscaria’s distinctive red cap with white spots in a wide variety of visual art forms. This toadstool frequently pops up in paintings, cartoons, video games, movies, and decorations. It is because of the artistic over-use of the Fly Agaric that I referred to it above as “The Type Mushroom.” When describing a new taxonomic division or species of fungi, mycologists collect a “type specimen” which best exemplifies the characteristics of that taxon. This ensures that future mycologists know exactly what the original author intended to include in that taxon. In human society, muscaria has become the type specimen for mushrooms. This is probably...
NEVER EAT AN AMANITA. Please keep reading if you don’t know what that sentence means. Amanita phalloides is perhaps the leading cause of deaths due to mushroom poisoning in the United States. The danger with the Death Cap is that it is often mistaken for an edible look-alike. Avoiding the Death Cap is not difficult once you learn to identify Amanita Although some Amanitas are edible, it is much safer to pass up every mushroom in that genus. The following list will help you identify A. phalloides:
NEVER EAT ANY PURE WHITE MUSHROOM. If that first sentence is as far as you read in this post, it should help you avoid ingesting the deadly poisonous mushrooms in this species group. One of the first questions you get asked when you tell someone you are interested in mushrooms is, “How can you tell whether or not a mushroom is poisonous?” Unfortunately, poisonous mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, so you really need to learn how to avoid each of them individually. The Destroying Angels (a.k.a. Death Angels) are some of the most deadly mushrooms in the world, so every amateur mushroom hunter must be able to identify them. Luckily, they are fairly easy to recognize. Here are six things you should check for to identify a Destroying Angel: WHITE COLOR: The first thing you notice about these mushrooms when you see them is that they are pure...