Observation 93620: Amanita sect. Amanita

When: 2012-04-24

Collection location: Santa Cruz Island, California, USA [Click for map]

Who: zack mikalonis (zackm)

No specimen available

at UC fieldstation. Abundant, primarily under eucalyptus, there were some small oaks and another bush around (branch/leaves in photo).

Proposed Names

17% (2)
Recognized by sight
54% (1)
Recognized by sight: See comments.
55% (1)
Recognized by sight: clearly something in this section, altho sp. currently unknown.

Please login to propose your own names and vote on existing names.

Eye3 = Observer’s choice
Eyes3 = Current consensus


Add Comment
The other shrub
By: Christian (Christian Schwarz)
2012-05-06 23:33:59 CDT (-0400)

looks like Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), in the Rosaceae.

You’re welcome, Hebert. And…
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2012-05-06 23:28:41 CDT (-0400)

did you mention the educational program before? I must have missed it.

I’m glad to here you’re underway in this adventure, and I wish you the very best.



You’re welcome.
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2012-05-06 23:24:28 CDT (-0400)
By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2012-05-06 17:07:27 CDT (-0400)

Dr. Tulloss,

I hope you’re feeling better soon. I appreciate that you have taken the time to try an answer some of my questions. I’m half-way through to getting a Bachelor of Science degree, so I will likely continue on my own to examine some of these questions more thoroughly in the near future. Thank you for all of your efforts, you’re a real inspiration for fledgling mycologist such as myself.


Excuse me for a delayed response.
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2012-05-06 16:24:26 CDT (-0400)


I saw your questions, and I have had my hands very full…and have experienced some difficult times that have taken a lot out of me.

To respond to some of these questions is not a simple matter. I’m going to make a try (I’ve been writing this for nearly two hours already), but I cannot go on with this topic beyond this one response.


At the moment, I know much less about the anatomy of “var. guessowii” than I do about “subsp. flavivolvata.” I’m pretty sure that the yellow-capped and red-capped populations of the provisional “amerimuscaria” are currently capable of exchanging genes. Dr. Geml did feel there was evidence for “recent” gene exchange.

The following is my attempt to briefly describe my understanding of a very large topic area…with the emphasis on briefly.

A phylogenetic tree is a hypothesis. It is computer assisted, and it is a hypothesis. Underlying the tree are multiple hypotheses of the form “this statistical method applied in this way with this model of how evolution works (on an amino acid-by-amino acid level in genes) can be applied using these programming methods to this data and create a hypothetical evolutionary history of this set of existing organisms in a more reliable way than previous tools or previous versions of this tool.” [Note the appropriate and complete absence of a claim to the tools’ producing something like absolute truth.]

Certainly very capable people are proposing these hypotheses…very many of these hypothesis. Certainly such people are proposing new hypotheses at a significant rate. The flurry of new computer-based tree-estimating tools is quite amazing. Any hypothesis based on an “old” tool will appear outdated to some critics in a matter of a very few years…maybe less.

A morphologically defined taxon is also a hypothesis.

Both types of hypotheses are created within moving frames of knowledge.

It is absolutely to be expected that, given we are taking the best shot NOW at understanding nature, our hypotheses will be forced to change over time by such things as more and better methods, more and better observations, elimination of erroneous theories, etc. The rate of change at present is quite high.

A decade or so ago, people made trees based on single genes and used them in development of evolutionary hypotheses. Now, many phylogeneticists (based on personal communications to me) will say that a one gene tree should be considered not as an evolutionary hypothesis concerning organisms but as a hypothetical history of the gene in the sampled organism or organisms. In other words, the interpretation of the meaning of a single-gene tree has become quite restricted.

With few fossils, the statistical methods of phylogeny are trying to produce a history behind a set of existing organisms. For Amanita that history might extend backward over 100,000,000+ years. It is amazing that people are trying to build tools to do that for organisms the history of which is entirely unsupported by fossil evidence. The point of these comments is to stress the magnitude of the problem to which computer programs are being applied. Another point to be made is that only another computer program can act as a test of any given computer program. No human experience or examination of specimens can test the hypothesis (tree) generated by a program that generates millions of hypothetical trees in its search for one that is best according to the hypothesis governing the concept “best.”

Finally, to repeat, there can be no ultimate guarantee that any tree is “correct” in an absolute sense. On the other hand, humans can’t operate in the realm of absolute senses. Consider the history of particle physics (Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) and mathematical logic (Gödel’s Proof—-that there are true propositions that cannot be proven from any set of axioms sufficiently strong to allow derivation of elementary Arithimetic).

If the above isn’t sufficient, I beg you to excuse me. I cannot continue on this topic due to lack of knowledge, lack of time, and lack of energy.


By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2012-05-06 13:35:30 CDT (-0400)


By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2012-04-30 21:10:27 CDT (-0400)

That seems like a logical way to do it!

Will you base sub-specific taxa solely on DNA info? (i.e. even though the eastern ‘guessowii’ shows a clear difference in cap color and spore size compared to it’s western counterpart, would you still have to see DNA info to somehow demonstrate or corroborate this difference?)

Wouldn’t a geographic disjunction show that a potential speciation event is occurring? What if one was to attempt the pairing of the monokaryotic mycelium of the two forms without success, would this fit the bill for the ‘biological species concept’?

In my somewhat limited understanding of your paper with Dr. Geml, didn’t it state that some of the taxa exhibited genetic monomorphism and not polymorphism?
i.g. Clade IIa In the PNW, does this not represent the yellow form in that specific area as described by Thiers? It would have made it easier if the paper had included pictures of the represented taxa that could have shown phenotype differences. Are they looking at a large enough portion of the DNA to get a good idea of what it represents? I’m sorry to bounce around from one topic and clade to another but I really have a million questions regarding the Amanita muscaria chemotaxonomic group.



Right now…
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2012-04-30 20:31:34 CDT (-0400)

Right now this is what’s happening. The paper will be structured first to segregate the red-capped muscaria and the red-capped amerimuscaria (the type is described as red).

At the moment, since there are many disconnected yellow clades (as has been described previously on MO), I am still of the opinion that our biggest problem is that www.amanitaceae.org doesn’t know what to do with a “name” such as “A. amerimuscaria yellow variant.” At least I don’t think that we have that built in to the tool set yet. It won’t be hard. We’ll handle it something like the way we handle “sensu names,” that is “names” that end (for example) with “sensu H. D. Thiers”.

Right now there is no support on the phylogenetic front for a subspecific rank for the yellow taxa (because of the aforementioned lack of a common ancestor the yellow-capped and only the yellow-capped specimens of amerimuscaria. I hope to ship several dozen more collections of yellow-capped amerimuscaria to Dr. Geml as soon as I can. These will be used to find out if there is any better indication of a common ancestor for all and only the yellow-capped critters. The news on this will eventually come out I hope, but there is no time table.

So we will give the yellow variant collections a page on the website, but be careful NOT to imply that they belong to a subspecific entity of some kind.

If I try to do too much in the amerimuscaria paper, it is going to get out of hand and be delayed again. I think it must have fully detailed taxonomic descriptions of Amanita muscaria and A. amerimuscaria. It should explain how they can be segregated microscopically, how they have barely overlapping ranges, how they have been shown to be cleanly separated phylogenetically, and a little about their penchant for being exported to other continents other than their home regions (which are pretty big in both cases).

This is the plan.

Several rather large collaborations are coming to the point of publication at about the same time. The time tables for these items are set by the lead authors of the papers who in each case have done a ton of good research, and I want to play the role that is appropriate in helping get those papers done and must fit their time tables. So amerimuscaria cannot have the primary position I planned for it to have by this time in this “off season.” That’s the way things go.

Very best,


By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2012-04-30 20:02:00 CDT (-0400)

Sounds like a great opportunity to try and figure some of these Santa Cruz island species out!

@Rod, I’m looking foreword to your publication of Amanita amerimuscaria. Will you be giving the eastern A. muscaria var. guessowii a form or variety status within amerimuscaria?, or, will you only be renaming A. muscaria subsp. flavavolvata for now? If it’s the former what will be the name of this form? A. amerimuscria f. guessowii? A. amerimuscaria var. guessowii? Thanks!

Zack, …
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2012-04-30 17:57:37 CDT (-0400)

Please send me an email so that I can get your return address. I’ll send you a pamphlet with info on drying and on lots of other stuff regarding collecting, photographing, annotating, etc. for amanitas.

For some reason I can’t send email via MO (I always get a message indicating that I am not permitted to send email).


By: zack mikalonis (zackm)
2012-04-30 12:12:50 CDT (-0400)

Thanks for all of the input Ret! I was only on the island for a couple days after this observation and I did not dry any of the specimens, partially because of lack of time, and partially because they already had amanita pantherina specimens in their herbarium, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing and did not want to add a mislabled specimen to their collection. I did try drying amanita vernicoccora for their herbarium but ran into maggot problems; do you have any advice for drying quickly without a dehydrator? I have spoken with the reserve manager though, and I plan to return to the island with others more knowledgeable than myself and census the island/restock the aging/incomplete herbarium. These ones were very abundant at the field station, so I would hope they will fruit there in the future as well. I also found some other “panthers” on the island, but they were in a separate location and seemed much more slender and fragile http://mushroomobserver.org/93616?q=DXmH

Thanks again!

Given recent experience with material from [edited]
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2012-04-30 08:27:06 CDT (-0400)

Sta. Cruz Island, this observation illustrates material that could be very important to understanding the evolution of amanitas. For example, the following mushrooms were all collected on Sta. Cruz Island and thought to be close to A. muscaria subsp. flavivolvata (for which the new name A. amerimuscaria is planned, ms. nearly finished):




All were said to have “peach-colored” caps.

The material in these photographs is in significantly better condition than any of the specimens I’ve seen for the above-listed taxa. The images are gorgeous (Congrats, Zack!). It would be great to know where these taxa belong in Amanita taxonomy. The volva is not typical of the pantherinoid group in my judgment. In fact, a weak ring that is sometimes somewhat elevated above the bulb is somewhat reminiscent of Amanita muscaria var. persicina. So this might be in the muscarioid part of sect. Amanita. Microscopic examination would tell us if that were true.

You are so lucky to have seen this. I hope it was possible to dry it very carefully and quickly.


Created: 2012-04-30 00:31:52 CDT (-0400)
Last modified: 2017-07-22 15:30:48 CDT (-0400)
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