The Genus Amanita
This resource is posted without warranty as to absolute taxonomic determination. In other words, it is possible that I have mislabelled a mushroom here! I am always grateful for corrections (contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
DO NOT use these photos as a tool for safe identification of edible wild mushrooms—use resources that are designed for that purpose:
Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America
America's Best, Safest Edible Wild Mushrooms
Mushrooms in the genus Amanita are mycorrhizal (symbiotic) with certain trees, most notably oaks and various conifers. Some Amanitas, such as the Death Cap (A. phalloides) Amanita and the Destroying Angel Amanita (A. virosa and A. bisporigera), are deadly poisonous and Amanitas account for the vast majority of the world's fatal mushroom poisonings.
Amanitas are, as a rule, relatively simple to recognize as such once one has learned the basics of mushroom identification and studied photographs of various Amanitas. Note that the individual traits mentioned below are not exclusive to Amanitas!
Here is a sampling of some of the most common and significant North American species of Amanita, particularly ones that are found in the northeastern United States.
- Amanitas are strictly terrestrial; it is very rare even to see an Amanita on a long-decayed mossy log.
- Amanitas do not grow in bouquetlike clusters, though it is not unusual for several specimens to grow in a tight group.
- Little bits of tissue (often called "warts") adhering to the cap's surface is a trait common to many species of Amanita.
- In some Amanita species the edge of the cap is noticeably striate (see the below photo of Amanita vaginata); most of those species have either warts on the cap or a cuplike volva around the base of the stalk (see the below photo of Amanita jacksonii). The volva should be considered a warning, for the most notoriously poisonous Amanitas exhibit this structure. Note that the volva is often hidden down in the duff on the forest floor.
- Many Amanitas also have partial veils covering the gills of young specimens; these are more-or-less membranous tissues that extend from the upper stalk to the edge of the cap at first, and later end up appearing as a skirt- or ring-like structure on the stalk (see the below photo of Amanita brunnescens var. pallida).
- The gills of an Amanita are either entirely free from the stalk rather than attached to it (click on the below photo of Amanita ceciliae), or attached only by fine lines. Most Amanitas' gills are white or pallid, though some species have gills that are either entirely yellow or that have yellow edges.
- Every Amanita produces a white spore print.
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