“Look! It’s a Mario mushroom!” Said every person who played any Mario game ever when observing an Amanita muscaria mushroom for the first time. Also known as the fly agaric, this mushroom has been detailed throughout human history and is arguably the most iconic mushroom in pop culture.
The reason it is a popular mushroom, besides the whole Mario thing, is the fact that it is a psychoactive mushroom. Though not illegal in the United States, it is not a very good, also it is in the Amanita genus, making it closely related to the most deadly mushroom known.
The most iconic form of this mushroom has a red cap, however in the Eastern United States, the caps tend to be more orange-yellow in color (Figure 1).
Amanita muscaria is a known endophyte of many trees, and has been introduced to new habitats when their native hosts are moved around continents. They are frequently found under pine, spruce, fur, and cedar trees in Michigan.
Figure 2: An Amanita muscaria mushroom popping out of the ground underneath a pine tree in Baker’s woodlot on Michigan State University’s campus.
The cap can be red – light yellow, starting out round/oval like an egg and slowly expanding to barely convex or flat 5-25cm across. One of the key characteristics are the remnants of the veil, also known as “warts” dotting the cap. These can be yellow-white in color. The gills are typically white, crowded and free from the stem.
The stem is anywhere from “5-18 cm long; 1-3 cm thick; more or less equal, or tapering to apex” (1) with the remenants of the universal veil around the swollen base (Figure 4). There is also a characteristic ring from the veil off of the gills present on the stem.
Figure 4: Image of the mushroom produced by Amanita muscaria. Note the large bulb on the base of the mushroom.
The spores are 8-12 x 5-7 µl, smooth and broadly ellipsoid (1).
1. Kuo, M. 2013. Amanita muscaria var flavivolvata. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/amanita_muscaria_flavivolvata.html