Two Types of Fly Agaric Toadstools

Brown Amanita toadstool (Brown fly agaric)
Brown fly agaric toadstool

I’ve been wistfully liking other bloggers’ pictures of the type of toadstool you see in fairy tale illustrations (orangey-red fly agarics with white spots) while wishing my woodland searches had uncovered one.

The woods are rich in fungi: pale, greyish, beige, brown, pinkish, purplish and black ones growing singly, clustered in their hundreds along fallen logs or running the whole height of dying trees. I’d seen alarmingly slimy ones, shiny ones, pert ones, shelf types, toadstools like pontefract cakes and a lot that looked like small potatoes but any flashes of orange or red had turned out to be berries cast down from trees.

At one point I discovered the brown form of fly agaric toadstool pictured above. You can’t take my word for this as I am no expert, but I suspect it may be the deadly poisonous Amanita pantherina, the panther cap or false blusher. Another possibility is the similar-looking blusher, Amanita rubescens, named because the white flesh turns pink where bruised. An interesting find, but not half as exciting to me as seeing a red one.

Several photographers kindly gave me tips to help steer me in the right direction, looking under mature birch trees being the main recommendation.

Happy days! My wonderful sister saved the day by unearthing this one at the base of a pine tree, near the place where she’d found a fairy ring earlier in the year. Could there be magic going on?

Fly agaric toadstool (Amanita muscaria)
Orange-red fly agaric toadstool

I believe this is a fairly young Amanita muscaria. As the toadstool ages, its cap will gradually flatten as shown in Derrick’s post. We couldn’t find another, but it’ll do me. There were some birches close by in an area of mixed woodland.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to pick it and certainly not to eat it as they are also listed as poisonous. The name fly agaric comes from the folk tradition of using the toadstools as fly killer – something I do not recommend you try at home. A woodland creature had taken a couple of round bites out of it, so we have to hope its digestive system can cope.

Funny how contented a simple sighting can make us, isn’t it?

If you’re unsure whether a fungal fruiting body should be described as a mushroom or toadstool, the convention is to use ‘mushroom’ for edible ones and ‘toadstool’ for poisonous ones. I have been wondering for some time and belatedly looked it up.

26 Replies to “Two Types of Fly Agaric Toadstools”

  1. Of course I had no idea what a pontefract cake was so I looked that up, and in so doing I discovered that licorice can also be spelled liquorice. How you do expand my horizons! I loved the word “pert” to describe some mushrooms, and, yes, I can well believe that such a sighting can satisfy the soul, especially a botanical soul. I have confounded my granddaughter by hanging prints of mushrooms. She doesn’t get mushrooms at all, much to my wonder. Magic among the pine needles? Absolutely!

    1. The liquorice ones have expanded my horizons too because I haven’t noticed them until this year. I like the idea of your mushroom prints. I’m not sure I was particularly interested in fungi either when I was younger, although I’ve liked flowers as long as I can remember.

      1. Thanks I found some a fee weeks ago and the had not opened yesterdays were nice to see – they were near pine trees rather than Birch trees. Thanks for link on your post. Think I have sorted now 👍

    1. I kept trying! It has been much, much easier to find them in my Reader than for real. There are a good number being reported in the New Forest (first mentioned in 1086, if you’re wondering how new), but that’s a long way from here.

    1. You were very fortunate to be directed to that fine clump and now you know where they are. I’ve seen several posts showing them in my Reader over the last few days. Perhaps it has been National Red Toadstool Week and we missed noticing that, but accidentally took part.

  2. It’s possible that I found one of these in east Texas a couple of weeks ago. It clearly was ‘over the hill’ — faded, fully open, and seemingly nibbled on, but it was red, and it was in an area with pines. I’ll have to pursue it. When new and fresh these are beautiful; I’d love to find one, and I’m glad that you did!

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