THE COMMON OBSERVER UNCOMMON OBSERVATIONS

Foraging Fungi

I recently went mushroom foraging. It was a curious and bountiful experience. These thoughts on foraging for fungi from Cal Flyn over at Aeon Magazine are worth considering…


Every few feet, we stumbled across a new, unidentified species. What about this? I called, waving him over. An Amanita excelsa, do you think? We squinted at the picture in the book, compared it to our specimen, side by side. It had the same soft white stalk, a felty skirt, pretty tan cap with pale scaly spots. Beside each entry in the book, there is a symbol: a smiling face or a skull and crossbones. Edible or poisonous? Next to ‘Amanita excelsa’ there was a smiley face. But, looking carefully, the colour didn’t seem an exact match for our toadstool. Different lighting? Natural variance? Or a wholly separate species?

 

‘Edible, mild taste; smell of turnip’ said the guide. Fine. But then, wait: ‘NB. Danger of confusing A. excelsa with A. pantherina and the very rare A. regalla.’ Hmmm. I leafed back through the book. A. pantherina did look similar, but it had the skull and crossbones. ‘Poison acts like A. phalloides but is stronger,’ it warned. I flicked back another few pages. ‘A. phalloides… causes the destruction of the liver and even small doses can be fatal. The poison is active for years and cannot be destroyed by cooking. 50g is fatal to a human being.’

 

We looked at each other, dropped the mushroom and walked on.

Read on over at Aeon Magazine…

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