Public Description of Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam.

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Name: Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam.
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 Draft For 2008/2009 Eol University Species Pages Initiative By Jake Cox (Private)

Description status: Unreviewed

Taxonomic Classification:

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Amanitaceae

General Description:

Amanita muscaria var. muscaria photo courtesy of, 2008,

Commonly known as the fly agaric or fly Amanita, Amanita muscaria is a mycorrhizal basidiomycete fungus that contains several toxic, psychoactive compounds. Amanita muscaria is the typical “toadstool” mushroom, bearing white gills and white warts on its variably colored cap and growing typically in clusters near conifers or hardwoods throughout the northern hemisphere. (2) (3)

The name fly agaric comes from its use as a control for pesky flies. The old practice was to soaking pieces of the mushroom in a saucer of milk to attract flies. The flies would drink the tainted milk, become intoxicated, and fly into walls to their death.

Diagnostic Description:

Caps: 5-30cm wide; oval when young, becoming more convex to flat with age; smooth, dry to sticky; bearing numerous white to tannish to yellow cottony to floccose warts concentrically to irregularly arranged; margin lined, striate; color highly variable, bright red in var. muscaria, orange-yellow in var. formosa, white in var. alba, and red-orange-yellow in var. flavivolvata. (1) (2) (3)

Gills: free or occasionally finely attached; white to cream, sometimes yellowish at the edges; close to crowded, broad; abundant with truncate lamellulae; partial veil thin with thickened edge, white to yellowish. (1) (2)

Stem: 5-20cm long; 1-3 cm thick; swollen base, tapering to apex; smooth to shaggy, bearing fine fibers or small scales, sometimes appearing roughened, wrinkled, or stuffed; white to yellowish, sometimes staining yellow when handled; bearing a thin skirt-like annulus with a thickened edge; sometimes bearing concentric rings of universal veil remnants at top of bulb or on lower stem. (1) (2)

Flesh: white throughout, not changing when sliced. (2)

Spores: spore print white, 9-13 × 6.5-8.5 micrometers, smooth, hyaline, thin-walled, broadly elliptical, inamyloid. (1) (2)

Hyphal Structure: basidia not basally clamped (2)

Edibility: contains toxins as well as hallucinogens muscimol and ibotenic acid; consumption not recommended. (2) (3)

Other: often found fruiting in coincidence with Boletus edulis, particularly under Norway spruce trees. (1)


Widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. In North America A. muscaria var. muscaria is found mainly throughout the western and deep southern regions. A. muscaria var. formosa and var. flavivolvata are located mainly throughout midwestern and eastern North America. A. muscaria var. alba is scattered throughout all of North America. (2) (3)


A. muscaria is mycorrhizal with conifers and hardwoods, particularly oaks, aspen, or Norway spruce. It is often found growing in rings known as “fairy rings” around these trees during the summer and fall months (June to October) and occasionally the winter months in California. The basidiocarps form in small, usually gregarious groups in the woods, under trees, or in grassy areas. (1) (2) (3)

Look Alikes:

Amanita muscaria var. formosa has an orange to yellow cap. (3)

Amanita muscaria var. formosa photo courtesy of, 2008,

Amanita muscaria var. flavivolvata has a red-orange-yellow cap with more yellowish warts. (2)

Amanita muscaria var. flavivolvata photo courtesy of, 2008,

Amanita muscaria var. alba has a whitish cap.

Amanita muscaria var. alba photo courtesy of, 2008,


Because A. muscaria contains the toxins/hallucinogens muscimol and ibotenic acid which act upon a section of the brain called the amygdala, thereby inhibiting the fear emotion, it is postulated that the Scandinavian Vikings would ingest these mushrooms prior to battle so as to diminish their fear. The mushrooms also likely made their opponents appear much larger due to the hallucinogenic properties of muscimol and ibotenic acid, causing the Vikings to fight with more might against opponents appearing larger than they actually were.

Ibotenic acid and muscimol also reportedly induce expanded perception and mystical or spiritual experiences. Thus, they have been used throughout history by Siberian shamans for these purposes. It is also postulated that A. muscaria may actually be Soma, a Hindu ritual that has greatly impacted Hindu culture and the development of the world’s other religions. (3)

See Tom Volk’s page on A. muscaria

used as a fly poison


(1) Bessette, A.E., Bessette, A.R., and Fischer, D.W. Mushrooms of Northeastern North America. 1997. Syracuse, NY. Syracuse University Press, 2002.

(2) Kuo, M. (2006, March). Amanita muscaria var. flavivolvata. Retrieved Dec. 2008 from MushroomExpert.Com:

(3) Volk, T. (1999). Amanita muscaria, the fly agaric, Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for December 1999. Retrieved Dec. 2008 from


“Common Name: Fly Agaric”

Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam., Encycl. Méth. Bot. (Paris) 1(1): 111 (1783) var. muscaria

Agaricus imperialis Batsch, Elench. fung. (Halle): 59 (1783)
Agaricus muscarius L., Sp. pl. 2: 1172 (1753)
Agaricus nobilis Bolton, Hist. fung. Halifax (Huddersfield) 2: 46, tab. 46 (1788)
Agaricus pseudoaurantiacus Bull., Hist. Champ. France (Paris) 3: 673, tab. 122 (1812)
Agaricus puellus Batsch, Elench. fung., cont. prim. (Halle): 59 (1786)
Amanita circinnata Gray, Nat. Arr. Brit. Pl. (London) 1: 600 (1821)
Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam., Encycl. Méth. Bot. (Paris) 1(1): 111 (1783)
Amanita muscaria ß minor Gray, Nat. Arr. Brit. Pl. (London) 1: 600 (1821)
Amanita muscaria ? puella (Batsch) Pers., Syn. meth. fung. (Göttingen) 2: 253 (1801)
Amanitaria muscaria (L.) E.-J. Gilbert, in Bresadola, Iconogr. Mycol. 27(Suppl. 1): 76 (1941)
Venenarius muscarius (L.) anon

Description authors: Tom Volk, Jake Cox (Request Authorship Credit)
Description editors: Nathan Wilson, Darvin DeShazer, Alan Rockefeller, R. E. Tulloss, Johannes Harnisch, IntoTheFlames, walt sturgeon

Created: 2007-04-05 23:42:08 PDT (-0700) by Alan Rockefeller (Alan Rockefeller)
Last modified: 2011-11-26 21:37:05 PST (-0800) by walt sturgeon (Mycowalt)
Viewed: 9876 times, last viewed: 2018-07-16 04:09:57 PDT (-0700)