Monday, 17 October 2011

Learning About Fungi (Fungus) - My Learning Curve Begins

As today is chucking it down with rain, it seems the perfect time to start my steep learning curve, discovering about fungi (fungus) identification.

I have only just started getting interested in fungi and think it is a great addition to any bushcrafters skill set. I have been taking advice from a fellow outdoors man, called Peter on Youtube, who has been giving me some guidance on how to get started in fungi identification.

He doesn't claim to be an expert, but he does have a good knowledge of the subject, has been on several courses regarding fungi (One of which was the Ray Mears Woodlore course) and if I had to trust anybody, it would be him.

Anyway, he has basically advised me to learn about 2-3 different species and to learn them well. It is much better (and safer) to know a few species in depth and to be able to identify them with 100% certainty. Rather than know a little bit about 20-30 species.

It only takes, the little bit you DON'T know about just one of those 20-30 species, to be serious or even fatal.

So, the learning starts here and over time I will add more photos and information to any future posts I publish.

With regards to any photos on my "Fungi" posts, they will all have been taken myself. I won't be using stock photos from other sites or books. I think this is important, as it just makes the learning process more enjoyable and hopefully should stick in my head better.

At present the only reference book I have is a Collins Nature Guide - Mushrooms And Toadstools of Britain & Europe by Edmund Garnweidner

And so to my first species, Fly Agaric.

I have chosen this one for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a poisonous variety and I feel it is more important to be aware of the fungi that will cause you harm, rather than ones that are edible.

Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric)

The cap is initially spherical and completely enveloped by a white, warty veil which later on in life becomes convex, flat and sometimes bowl-shaped with a grooved margin (outermost edge of the cap) in its latter stages.

The cap can be bright orange-red to scarlet, with a lemon-yellow colouring below the skin of the cap (Pellicle). The cap can grow up to 15cm in diameter.

The gills, which is the grooved underside of the cap are white and classed as crowded, meaning they are grouped very close together.

The spores of the Fly Agaric are found to be white. To identify spores from fungi, you would need to use a microscope with x1000 magnification. This is an aspect I haven't yet explored.

The stem thick all the way down, white in colour, with a broad, hanging and comb-like grooved ring. The base of the stem is bulbous with warty residues of veil (temporary structure of tissue found on the fruiting bodies)

If you were to cut into the cap, the flesh would be white and have no scent.

The Fly Agaric, tends to be found in coniferous forests, like pine plantations for example. They are often found in pairs or groups, but is not uncommon to find as single specimens, as I found recently on a walk at Mere Sands Wood, near Ormskirk.

This particular fungi contains small amounts of Muscarin (Natural product found in certain fungi) but also contains Muscimol (The major psychoactive alkaloid present in many mushrooms of the Amanita genus) which is harmful.

The Fly Agaric also contains poisons that have not yet been analysed and can prove fatal if digested.

Other specimens that resemble the Fly Agaric are Amanita Regalis, which is also poisonous. I have yet to locate this fungi and photograph for my records.

If you would like to watch a short video of my walk through Mere Sands Wood and the vast number of fungi that we came across (including the Fly Agaric), please follow the link below :

This post on the Fly Agaric is an ongoing article and will be updated with more information and pictures of the fungus, as I acquire them, so please keep returning to see any updates.

I would appreciate and welcome any comments on this particular species or any other fungi types, as the more information I have the quicker I am going to learn. Thank You


  1. There's a hipothesis that consuming fly agaric is at the very foundation of our religion beliefs, being a vital component of the earliest known ritual drinks. People here and in Russia were using it as long as up to XIX century, pretty much for the same reasons we drink Red Bull nowadays, but I guess their stomach sensitivity was much lower than in modern city dwellers. Knowing what living in taiga looks like, if it enabled elderly people to walk extra 30 km, it might have been lifesaving species.

    Some Amanita species are good to eat. I won't risk without a good book in my hand though.

    1. Great feedback and information, thank you...