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fly agaric fact sheet
Probably our most familiar toadstool
- The fruiting body can be up to 20cm across and 30cm tall
- As it matures, the brilliant scarlet cap opens and is covered with white, wart-like spots
Widespread throughout the UK, on light soils in mixed woodland and heaths among birch and pine.
When to look for
Did you know?
- The fruiting bodies (the bit you can see) appear from late summer - view live map
- They can usually be seen through to the first frosts of winter
- Fly agaric was traditionally used as an insecticide, the cap broken up and sprinkled into saucers of milk. It's now known to contain ibotenic acid, which both attracts and kills flies
- The 'spots' are actually remnants of the white veil of tissue that at first enclosed the young mushroom, and are sometimes washed washed off by the rain
- Fly agaric belongs to the genus Amanita, which also contains the deadly poisonous death cap and the prized edible caesars mushroom
- It was commonly found on Christmas cards in Victorian and Edwardian times as a symbol of good luck and its colours are thought to have been the inspiration for Santa Claus's red and white suit
- Fly agaric is mycorrhizal, forming a mutually beneficial relationship with its host tree. This association provides the tree with increased absorbtion of water and minerals, and the fungus with constant access to carbohydrates
- One of the effects of consuming fly agaric is a perceived distortion in the size of objects. It has been said that Lewis Carroll's hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was inviting her to take a bite from a fly agaric...