Scientific name: Amanita spp.
Common name: Destroying angels, death cup, fly agaric
Description: There are edible species of “Amanita” in North America, and several of the same species have been popular in Europe for centuries. Dozens of species of “Amanita” in North America are inadequately known. In addition, several of the poisonous species closely resemble the edible ones. Thus, a good mycologist will never recommend collecting or eating any amanitas. It is important to know the features common to all the species. Amanitas emerge from the ground surface as round or oval buttons surrounded by a protective layer known as a universal veil. When the stalk of the button starts to elongate, the soft universal veil fragments and is carried up in the expanding cap as a series of warts or patches of tissue. If the universal veil is tough, it is split by the expanding cap and nothing of the universal veil is left on the cap. Instead, a well-formed volva or cup surrounds the base of the stalk. Furthermore the spores are white. Therefore, mushrooms having white spores, free gills, and a universal veil that leaves a volva or cup should be avoided like a plague.
Occurrence: Amanita species live in a variety of habitats from coniferous to mixed forest and rarely in meadows.
Toxicity: Most mushrooms are not poisonous, but a few are deadly. The best advice is to avoid mushrooms unless you can positively identify them as edible. Nearly 90 percent of mushroom poisonings are caused by mushrooms in the genus Amanita. Some members of this genus are edible, whereas others are so deadly that one or two bites can be fatal. Among the most poisonous species are “A”. “muscaria” (Fr.) S.F. Cray, “A”. “virosa” (Fr.) Quel., and “A”. “phalloides” Fries. These species contain complex poisons such as amatoxins, ibotenic acid, and muscimol. Some of the compounds are hallucinogenic and act on the nervous system.