Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Beautiful and deadly

I’m fairly certain this lovely, nearly pure white mushroom is one of the Amanitas, frequently called the deadly Amanitas as though the phrase is a single word. I believe it’s a Destroying Angel, though I’m less certain of that. With Amanitas the choices are wide and varied. This one was 4-5 inches tall, actually small by Amanita standards.

In any event, Amanitas are among the showiest and deadliest of the mushrooms. In southeast Alaska along the Chilkoot Trail, I found some nearly as tall as my shin, with a cap the size of a dinner plate. Now, those were impressive. Early fall is a good time to find them, partly because the forest floor is visible once the annual undergrowth begins to thin out and partly because September and October is the time when many appear.

Several species of Amanitas are called Destroying Angel. None are good in salads, as you might expect from the name. They are found up and into early November, throughout North America, in mixed woods, under or near trees. They can be reliably identified by spore prints, but I don’t touch them. Reading about death by mushroom (vomiting followed by diarrhea, cramps, and kidney and liver dysfunction leading to death) does that to me. If there is ever the perfect time to take only photographs and leave only footprints, the Amanitas make me extra sure that’s all I do.


kat said...

Boy is that right! You really have to know your mushrooms in order to even consider eating one you find in the woods or along a trail. Every year, it seems I read about someone or a family who picked mushrooms and put it into a dish only to have died from eating them. They are beautiful ... but from a distance as you've pointed out.

Cathy said...

I've photograph them a couple times, the whitness can goof up the camera up sometimes.