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Observation 12521: Amanita smithiana Bas

When: 2008-10-12

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

Who: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)

No specimen available

Perhaps the only mushroom one needs to be careful with when collecting matsutake is Amanita smithiana. Not only are the colorations similar, but A. smithiana, to my nose, smells similar to matsutake. It is, however, poisonous. Added to this problem is the fact I have often found A. smithiana immediately adjacent to (less than a foot away in some cases). Identification by Dr. Lorelei Norvell, assisted by Dr. Judy Rogers.


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just read Rod’s second comment…
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2008-10-13 18:45:36 CDT (-0400)

that is very curious that more species of lepidellas aren’t being found in the PNW. why is that, i wonder? At any rate, and of course we haven’t mentioned one obvious issue, individual idiosyncrasy, ie your nose is different from mine, and his and his, and your rules for safely picking wild mushrooms must correspond to your own perceptions. and of course, the power of suggestion (from expert to novice) can be enough to color what one thinks they are smelling. that said, however, it is not an issue for most hunters, confusing matsies with smithiana by smell. might be interesting if you could dry some of that “cinnamon-smelling” material next time you find it, though, and let Rod have a look at it.

and after all this…looking at your smithiana display a little more carefully, I can see where the base on the mushroom to the far right is radicating, and then disappears under the duff. it probably is smithiana, but you have initiated an interesting dialogue, regardless!

have you considered that the weird “lepidella” that you are smelling is not smithiana at all?
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2008-10-13 18:32:43 CDT (-0400)

eastern lepidellas have a broad range of smells, why not on the West Coast, too?
Jan Lindgren, your PNW amanita expert, mentions the “no smell” or “strongly unpleasant smell” (rotten amanita), but nuthin’ about cinnamon or possible confusion of smithiana (thru smell) with matsutake.

superficially they can look similar; but of course NO white-gilled mushroom should be eaten unless you are absolutely sure of your identification. matsies have a tapering base (smithiana can taper with its long root, but it is first bulbous, then tapering) a unique smell (to most folks) and a very hard texture, esp. when young; a knife may squeek going thru the flesh! The partial veils are quite different, too…the matsie has a cottony membranous veil that is peronate, or breaks pointing upwards; the lepidellas have cottony friable veils, easily lost, that break downwards, and drape like a skirt.

if these mushrooms were easily confused, there would be no American market for matsies!

Which makes me wonder…
By: Paul Derbyshire (Twizzler)
2008-10-13 16:03:09 CDT (-0400)

…is there any danger that a store-bought “matsutake” might cause kidney failure? (That is, might be an Amanita smithiana accidentally mistaken for T. magnivelare and harvested as one.) Or are there tests performed, or the store-bought ones are cultivated from a trusted mycelium, or something?

RE: Debbie’s comment
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2008-10-13 15:49:37 CDT (-0400)

I really do think A. smithiana can smell strongly like T. magnivelare. VERY close. A newcomer that I was showing around the display, when asked to smell both, thought they were very close as well: mostly cinnamon aromas, but he felt the A. smithiana was more “sweet”. A. smithiana that I find near Timothy Lake (Clackamas County, near 2500 feet elevation) is so similar to T. magnivelare including the base of the stipe I choose not to collect it there anymore.

But A. smithiana near Cape Lookout in sand dune areas looks much smaller yet has an even deeper rooting structure. It looks more like a miniature T. magnivelare, and the sand erodes much of the volval patches in pushing upwards. Under these conditions habitat becomes essential to identification.

Display problems
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2008-10-13 15:35:38 CDT (-0400)

At the OMS Shows, the person in charge of the display table has control over “artistic” presentation. That includes the usage of moss and bark mulch to show somewhat the soil surface level, which can make some pretty serious problems in showing where a fungus normally is found at. In the case of Amanita smithiana, I can see in the specimen directly to the left of the sign, a significant but incomplete root-like structure. And since Jan Lindgren is typically in charge of the Amanita table and was present at the show, I think I’ll defer on this one, except to say it does look like A. smithiana in my experience, if much larger than I usually find it. Differences in local habitat evidently make considerable difference in the stature of the fungi.

I see that a number of specimens of A. silvicola with typical basal bulbs were…
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2008-10-13 14:28:37 CDT (-0400)

I see by another observation that a number of specimens of A. silvicola with typical basal bulbs were collected and ID’d at the same event by the same identifiers. I was thinking that, if all the silvicolas were segregated, there must be extended radicals under the “substrate” of the display (or, maybe, they were cut off?). I would think that both indentifiers would know both silvicola and smithiana.

As, Debbie says, the pictured species could be “none of the above.” The problem is that while unknown lepidellas are (1.)not rare in central CA and (2.)even almost common in some seasons in some habitats of southern CA (I base this on the material in A.H. Smith’s collections and communicated materail in MICH and the material sent to me years ago by Greg Wright), very few are known from the PNW — even including A. pruittii nom. prov. as “known.”

I think I’d still start by asking “where’s the root”?


I think that “smithiana” can be a catch-all for white lepidellas in the PNW.
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2008-10-13 13:58:21 CDT (-0400)

…surely there are more white MR leps than just silvicola and smithiana? I find quite a few even here in CA that I can’t really put a name to; unnamed for now, and “none of the above” when checking off known names. Fungus Fairs are quick and dirty IDs, true all across the country, when you need names and you need ‘em fast. the public doesn’t care, but it gets more complicated when we want to have a valid database, like here on MO.

You REALLY think that smithiana smells like the distinctive matsie smell of “cinnamon red-hots and dirty sox??!”
Not in my experience it doesn’t. Smithiana either smells like nothing at all (when fresh), or like rotten amanita/rotten meat/“old ham” (as Thiers describes it in Agaricales of CA).

stipe bases…
By: R. E. Tulloss (ret)
2008-10-13 08:55:24 CDT (-0400)

Are the typical long rooting bases of these specimens buried in the display? If the central specimen’s bulb is above the surface of the display, it looks top-shaped or turnip-shaped and not deeply radicating. Can you clarify, Daniel?

Very best,