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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

24 November, 2009

Fungus species (Amanita spissa)

Safe to eat or certain death? Now there is a question it is best not even to contemplate! As far as I can tell this in Amanita spissa which is very common and edible according to my book. However, it is a definite 'look-a-like' for Amanita phalloides which is affectionately known as the Death Cap Fungus and for Amanita virosa, aka the Destroying Angel and I am sure you have worked out that both of these species are DEADLY POISONOUS. So get the answer wrong and that's it, no second chance!

The Death Cap and Destroying Angel are so poisonous that you only need to touch them to transfer the poison to your fingers, then you stop to have sandwiches for lunch and then, a few painful hours later, the lights go out. This is why, of course, unless you are an expert, fungi are best admired from a short distance and not in the hand.

I like the comment in my book against Amanita excelsa (again very similar in appearance to A. spissa): "Said to be edible" - obviously the author has decided not to try it to find out for himself.

The Amanita family also includes 'A. muscaria', the familiar red capped Fly Agaric which is described as having a pleasant taste, but later in the text as being poisonous! It is certainly known to bring on hallucinations that give it the name of the 'Magic Mushroom'.

So, the Amanita family of fungi are an interesting group. They are quite common, especially in broad leaved woodlands, and have similarities in appearance that make them difficult to separate without dissecting them or looking at their spores under a microscope. Mycology is a tricky subject.