MUSHROOMS WITH SCALES ON CAP AND STEM
1 AMANITA CAESAREA
Etymology From Latin, "of Caesar" or "regal," because it was a favorite of the early Roman Caesars.
Description Cap 8-20 cm, hemispherical to flat, orange-red washing out to yellow, cuticle separable, sometimes with evident membranous remains of white veil, margin striate. Gills free, crowded, yellow. Stipe 8-15 x 2-3 cm, narrowing at top, hollow when mature, with yellow falling ring, slightly swollen at base, with large white membranous volva. Flesh whitish, yellowish beneath cuticle. Without evident odor. Spores white, elliptical, smooth, 8-14 x 5-8.5 microns.
Edibility In Europe, excellent cooked.
Habitat In airy parts of dry oak woods, in slightly acid ground, and with pines.
Season Spring to autumn.
Note The common North American form, which may be a distinct species, has a somewhat umbonate cap and a thinner (1-2 cm) yellow stripe, and occurs from eastern Canada to Florida and west to the central states; the same or a similar form occurs in the Southwest and Mexico.
Caution A number of look-alikes of unknown edibility exist in North America. And what is called A. caesarea in North America is not generally regarded as choice.
2 AMANITA MUSCARIA
Common name Fly agaric.
Etymology From Latin "of flies," because of the northern European custom of using the cap, soaked in milk, to kill or stupefy flies.
Description Cap 8-25 cm, hemispherical to slightly concave, cuticle detachable, red, covered with white pyramidal warts which may be removed by rain, margin striate. Gills white, crowded, free. Stipe 12-25 x 1.5-2.5 cm, basal bulb with volva of several concentric warty rings, ring white, membranous. Flesh soft and white, orange-red beneath cuticle. Not very conspicuous odor. Spores white, ovoid, smooth, 9-11 x 6-8 microns.
Edibility Fairly poisonous, depending on the season.
Habitat In mountains under conifers and birch.
Season Summer and fall.
Note Although reported from Siberia as producing hallucinations, the red-capped North American variety which is found in northern forests and higher altitudes in the south, causes delirium, manic behavior and deep sleep, sometimes accompanied by profuse sweating.
3 AMANITA MUSCARIA
Common name American fly agaric.
Etymology From Latin, "handsome-looking."
Description This variety has a yellowish to orange coloration, or has a tinge of red at the center. All the velar remains (ring, volva and warts) are white, and the description of A. muscaria (2) applies to this variety in all other respects.
Edibility Toxicity appears to vary widely from place to place, and seems to lie for the most part in the cap cuticle.
Habitat This variety is very common in North America, but becomes rarer, more stender, and tinged with a salmonlike coloration in the southern states. Moving west we also find the typical red-capped A. muscaria.
Season Summer and autumn.
Note Although the toxins in both varieties of this species are reportedly concentrated in the colored skin of the cap, peeling the mushroom does not render it harmless, and poisonings do occur. The hallucinations for which the red-capped Siberian variety is notorious do not seem to occur with either American variety; rather, the experience is often one of delirium and deep sleep, sometimes accompanied by profuse sweating.
4 AMANITA PHALLOIDES
Common name Death cap.
Etymology From Latin, "phalluslike," because of the shape of the carpophore in the early stages of growth.
Description Cap 5-20 cm, subspherical to flat, rarely with membranous velar remains; fairly deep olive-green to olive-brown but paler toward margin, usually with dark innate radial fibrils. Gills white or slightly yellowish, quite crowded, free. Stipe 8-20 x 1-2 cm, tapering toward top, hollow when mature, white speckled with greenish gray stripes, white membranous ring, striate at top, base bulbous with large, white, membranous volva. Flesh white, but greenish yellow just beneath cuticle. Odor first neutral, then nauseous. Spores white, ovoid to nearly round, smooth, 8-11 x 7-9 microns, amyloid.
Edibility Deadly poisonous.
Habitat With a preference for broadleaf trees, particularly oak, but also under pine and spruce.
Season Late spring to late autumn.
Note When cut, the outline of the carpophore is white, faintly green in the cuticle area. As little as one cap can prove fatal to ah adult. Symptoms don't occur for about 10-12 hours (or longer). Although only recently confirmed in North America, it is now known from several eastern seaboard states and the Pacific coast.
Copyright © 1981 by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano