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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Emerging among the pine needles

When Peter mentions that he has found something interesting, you know you're in for a treat.  Such was the case last week when he brought me to a site near Bodega Head and pointed to these:





These beauties are all stages (from youngest to oldest) of the Fly Agaric or Fly Amanita (Amanita muscaria).

Note the progression from the "button" stage to globose and then to broad and plate-like. Apparently some can reach up to 40 cm (~15 inches) across!

The small, flattened patches on the cap are remnants of the universal veil — a layer of tissue that initially covers the emerging mushroom.

While scanning different mushrooms among the pine needles, we noticed that a few had been nibbled:




After a little more searching, we discovered the likely culprit.  Can you find it in the image below?


Yes!  A banana slug (Ariolimax sp.) can be seen near the base of the mushroom (see close-up below).


(Athough slugs eat them, beware that Fly Agarics are poisonous to people.)


Peter recalled that occasionally these distinctive red-and-white mushrooms show up on winter holiday cards.  This U.S. Forest Service ethnobotany page discusses this association and presents a few images of vintage cards with examples.  I especially like the one with children collecting mushrooms in the snow — a good idea for a knitted hat! 

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