When: 2008-10-12

Seen at: Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon, USA [Click for map]

Who: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)

No specimen available

Oregon has many Christmas tree farms, especially in nearby Clackamas County, which produces more Christmas trees than most states. A favorite Christmas tree is Noble fir (Abies procera). In order to grow this rather slow-growing tree rapidly, it is brought down in elevation from the 2500 feet plus it naturally occurs at to elevations below 1,000 feet, where it grows much more rapidly. Amanita muscaria var. formosa is a common mycorrhizal host of these lower elevation Noble fir. Identification by Dr. Lorelei Norvell, assisted by Dr. Judy Rogers.

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DNA test only?
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2009-12-09 15:28:38 CST (-0600)

No. I could tell “var. muscaria” and “subsp.” _flavivolvata_" apart by microscopic characters before the DNA work was done. The spore size and shape differ as does the thickness of the lamella trama. So far as is known, the ranges of the red taxa only overlap (if they do) between southern Alaska and the PNW.

var. persicina can be distinguished by several macroscopic characters. I can’t remember at the moment whether I can separate in on microscopic grounds alone. If you want me to chase this done, it’ll take some time (don’t know how much). I will do it, however, if it would help.

One specimen of subsp. flavivolvata was collected in Massachusetts. It could be introduced there. It has been introduced in Colombia and Brazil…and probably many other places in plantations of pine.

Because I’ve never had the time to work on the microscopy of var. guessowii it was news to me when it failed to form a coherent clade after molecular studies led to a tree that clearly segregated the red taxa, but left the yellow and white taxa of both A. muscaria and the future “amerimuscaria” mixed in as scatter groupings within the two dominantly red-headed clades.

What would a phylogenetic tree look like if a infraspecific (var., subsp., f.) were discovered in one. First of all imagine a branching “fanning out” into many, many leaves. Each of these leaves represents one collection of, say, _A. muscaria. So lets call these leaves “red leaves.” Now lets say Herbert or Daniel send in a shipment of yellow-capped muscarias sensu lato from the PNW. DNA is sequenced again (the same genes or parts of genes that were used for the first tree), and a new tree is generated from the combined results. NOW. IF we find that there is a single branch in the branch full of red leaves now has a new subbranch with all of our new specimens and ONLY our new specimens on that branch (call it the SOLO YELLOW BRANCH), then we would have evidence that within the collection of red leaves our new yellow leaves hang together on one branch (they then, hypothetically, have a single common ancestor). Now we could say reasonably that they represent a group that lies within the genetic scope of a phylogenetic species that we believe to be identified with a morphological species. Yellow caps are just something happens now and again (the way it looks at the moment in REAL LIFE), but they are a consequence of a single ancestor’s color related mutation. Follow somebody’s rule of thumb and call ‘em members of a variety or of a form or of a subspecies (probably not in this case because subspecies usually don’t have overlapping ranges).

Just to be clear (or make matters worse, let me know), the situation we now have is lots of small twigs with one or a few yellow leaves on them. There is no branch that unites all the yellow-leafed twigs into a great unity originating from a single point in the (otherwise) red-leaved tree.

I’m nearly ready to send a new shipment of yellow-heads and taxa related to muscaria to Dr. Geml.

I’m SWAMPED with the complete rebuilding of the Amanita Studies website. It is a birthday present from my son David (tullabs). It came with instructions for assembly (well, in this case, problems in assembly go back to the toolmaker who remakes the tool).

It’s a great pleasure to work on a project with David again. Big dreams. A long way to go. Maybe sometime in 2010, we’ll have a public tea party to show the then current state. Meanwhile, the 11 year old site is chugging along.

Very best,


Noble fir
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2009-12-09 14:46:42 CST (-0600)

Noble fir in Washington is not always Noble fir as I understand it. Some tree nurseries in WA are selling what appears to be either Fraser fir or Shasta Red fir as N. Back to fungus in question: the largest Amanitas I have ever found came from a nearly pure stand of low-elevation Noble fir planted as Christmas trees in Clackamas County. The 2nd largest specimens I have ever seen came from Cape Lookout in Tillamook County, associated with (I think) Sitka spruce and rarely Lodgepole pine and Red alder. These specimens can be 12 inches across the caps (30cm). They may be colored as this or as brilliantly red as a Polish Christmas card. With apologies to Amanita afficionados, most A. muscaria to me have a distinctive stinky aromatic signature. And it lasts. David Arora signed my copy of Mushrooms Demystified in 1987, shortly after I handled an A. muscaria for the 1987 OMS Show. My book still reeks, which is probably why no one has swiped it yet.

Noble Fir muscaria
By: mark (muscmark)
2009-12-09 14:24:35 CST (-0600)

Interesting. Whether this is related, I do not know. I used to get a lot of muscaria muscaria (or flavivolvata, depending on who you talk to) from a Noble Fir tree farm near Chehalis WA. These were the consistently largest muscaria carpophores I have ever seen. I figured it was either the tree-species symbiosis or the fertilizer that accounted for the huge size.

MO is ahead of relevant publications here…
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2009-09-20 14:41:41 CDT (-0500)

Herbert Baker is correctly reporting DNA studies of many collections of muscarioid taxa from North America, Europe, and Asia. If there is such a thing as A. muscaria var. formosa (and I doubt it), it is a European taxon. I’m inclined to think that variations in pigment in individual fruiting bodies have repeatedly been given names and ranks that are not of much taxonomic use. The yellow and white variants of muscaria and “amerimuscaria” have not yielded any DNA evidence (yet) of being anything other than local color variants that have repeatedly reappeared in certain regions of N. America, but don’t seem to have common ancestors (i.e., no common ancestor for the yellow muscaria variants in the PNW and no common ancestor for the yellow amerimuscaria variants that occur in the eastern “half” of the continent.

Very best,


N. America
By: walt sturgeon (Mycowalt)
2009-05-17 12:37:51 CDT (-0500)

Maybe Rod can help us here but I thought the N. American orange to yellow one is var. guessowii.