Fly Agaric from cradle to grave
Fly agaric has to be one of our best known and best loved fungi: the archetypal toadstool. It embodies everything that draws us and unsettles us about mushrooms; brightly coloured, but the beauty of the scarlet colour sounds some instinctive warning bells. It’s poisonous, but if you’re brave (or foolish) enough, it’s a hallucinogen that will plunge you into an Alice in Wonderland world of distorted perception (and vomiting and the chance of death, but hey… what price vision, eh? 😉 ).
In fact I’m being a bit facetious. The vomiting part of the experience is seen as a vital and sacred purge in the process of achieving vision and enlightenment – Amanita muscaria has long been a revered and sacred substance in many cultures. If you are interested in that aspect of the fungi, take a look at this website and this one.
We have a lot of fly agaric in Surrey, as they have a mycorrhizal (symbiotic) relationship with silver birch, the coloniser of heathland. The ones you’re about to see, however, were growing in a colony underneath an oak. I often see A. muscaria and love to photograph them, but what was interesting about these was that there were a group of fungal bodies at different stages, from an immature spotty baby through to a pair of aged specimens whose colour had faded to a gorgeous gold.
The whole life cycle of the fruiting body of this beautiful fungus is here.