A beautiful mushroom that always reminds me of Smurf houses. The smurfs were hiding when I found these on a hike through the woods. This mushroom unfortunately is poisonous to eat. Deaths from its consumption are extremely rare, and it is eaten as a food in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America after parboiling. Amanita muscaria is noted for its hallucinogenic properties, with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol. It was used as an intoxicant and entheogen by the peoples of Siberia and has a religious significance in these cultures. There has been much speculation on traditional use of this mushroom as an intoxicant in places other than Siberia; however, such traditions are far less well documented. And with that I still do not recommend that anyone ever eat it.
A large conspicuous mushroom, Amanita muscaria is generally common and numerous where it grows, and is often found in groups with basidiocarps in all stages of development. Fly agaric fruiting bodies emerge from the soil looking like a white egg, covered in the white warty material of the universal veil. Dissecting the mushroom at this stage will reveal a characteristic yellowish layer of skin under the veil which assists in identification. As the fungus grows, the red color appears through the broken veil and the warts become less prominent; they do not change in size but are reduced relative to the expanding skin area. The cap changes from globose to hemispherical, and finally to plate-like and flat in mature specimens. Fully grown, the bright red cap is usually around 8–20 cm (3–8 in) in diameter, although larger specimens have been found. The red color may fade after rain and in older mushrooms. After emerging from the ground, the cap is covered with numerous small white to yellow pyramid-shaped warts. These are remnants of the universal veil, a membrane that encloses the entire mushroom when it is still very young. The free gills are white, as is the spore print. The oval spores measure 9–13 by 6.5–9 μm,non-amyloid, and they do not turn blue with the application of iodine. The stipe is white, 5–20 cm high (2–8 in) by 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in) wide, and has the slightly brittle, fibrous texture typical of many large mushrooms. At the base is a bulb that bears universal veil remnants in the form of two to four distinct rings or ruffs. Between the basal universal veil remnants and gills are remnants of the partial veil (which covers the gills during development) in the form of a white ring. It can be quite wide and flaccid with age. There is generally no associated smell other than a mild earthiness.
Where to find it:
Though generally encountered in autumn, the season can vary in different climates: fruiting occurs in summer and autumn across most of North America, but later in autumn and early winter on the Pacific coast. It is often found in similar locations to King Boletes aka Boletus edulis, and may appear in fairy rings. Conveyed with pine seedlings, it has been widely transported into the southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America, where it can be found in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. Almost every time I have found this mushroom there has always been a King Bolete nearby. The only exceptions has been when I spotted it under dense regrowth in a fir planting.
Strangely enough this mushroom reminds me of Santa Claus. All that bright red and white colors as Christmas approaches.