amanita muscaria: polka, anyone?
Polka, anyone????? The flamboyant orange-capped form of Amanita muscaria with its striking white polka-dots or is difficult to overlook! This toadstool finding the boreal and temperate environment of Prince of Wales Island conducive to growth brags multiple variants based on two variables – 1) the color of its cap which ranges from reds, oranges, yellows, and whites, and 2) the color of its universal veil.
Also known as fly agaric, tthe amarita was used to kill insects in the medevil and colonial days.
The name of the mushroom in many European languages is thought to derive from its use as an insecticide when sprinkled in milk. This practice has been recorded from Germanic- and Slavic-speaking parts of Europe, as well as the Vosges region and pockets elsewhere in France, and Romania.:198 Albertus Magnus was the first to record it in his work De vegetabilibus some time before 1256, commenting vocatur fungus muscarum, eo quod in lacte pulverizatus interficit muscas, “it is called the fly mushroom because it is powdered in milk to kill flies.”Wikipedia Taxomony and naming, Amarita mucosia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_muscaria
Insects are not the only ones who can be poisoned by Amanita. Though there are variants that are edible, the majority of the variants are reputed to be poisonous though there are few deaths attributed to amanita, it is known to create acute gastro-intestinal duress as a minimum and is toxic to dogs and cats. ( https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/amanita-muscaria.php ).
Deaths from this fungus A. muscaria have been reported in historical journal articles and newspaper reports, but with modern medical treatment, fatal poisoning from ingesting this mushroom is extremely rare. Many older books list Amanita muscaria as “deadly”, but this is an error that implies the mushroom is more toxic than it is. The North American Mycological Association has stated that there were “no reliably documented cases of death from toxins in these mushrooms in the past 100 years”.Wikipedia, Toxicity, Amanita mucosia,https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_muscaria
Amanita mucosia additionally has the dubious charactistic of being psycho-tropic as well as poisonous. Whimsically, it was thought that Alice in Wonderland depicts the Amanita mucosia as being an hallucienogenic mushroom.
This mushroom was traditionally used ritualistically by indigenous peoples in Siberia, middle east, and elsewhere. The key thought is that it was used as part of a ritual rather than for recreation where the tendacy to abuse is always a danger.
In walking through the forests on the island, we have found Amanita mucosia in various places in many of its variants. Surprisingly enough, in researching this post, it appears that some of the photographs I took of mushrooms in the past could vary well be variants in the whitecapped forms. Usually the mucosia we find are small and not the mega-sized sample next to the large Kong dog hoop.
The slideshow below shows the other variants and are from the following websites. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_muscaria , https://erowid.org/plants/amanitas/amanitas.shtml , https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/amanita-muscaria.php