Fungi Fridays: Amanita phalloides*

[690 words, 3-5 min read]

The Amanita genus is famed for its deadly mushrooms. This genus can be trouble, but there are a few edible species in it. Amanita caesarea (Caesar’s Mushroom) is a highly regarded edible, and the species Amanita hemibapha, commonly known as the Half-dyed Slender Caesar, is edible as well.

I’m thinking the depicted pale mushrooms are Amanita phalloides, commonly known as Death Caps. I didn’t get the best look at these for identification purposes, but they were beautiful from afar! Many Amanita phalloides images depict fruit with greener caps than these two depicted mushrooms, but their distinctive volvas and pale coloration are red flags to me, and they’re just too immature to know what color they’ll turn.


Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the Fly Agaric

The beautiful (but toxic) Amanita muscaria, commonly known as Fly Agaric, is in the same genus as the phalloides. Muscaria has been traditionally used as an insecticide and sprinkled in milk to attract unsuspecting flies. It also has religious significance in Siberian culture due to hallucinogenic properties caused by ibotenic acid, muscimol, etc. and many cultures reportedly use it as an intoxicant. Apparently, humans have found many uses for this ‘shroom!

As for reported toxicity, North American deaths from Amanita muscaria compounds have been documented as recently as 2012 though—which means people are safest steering clear of this mushroom.


Likely Amanita phalloides, the Death Cap. Related to muscaria

This is as good a time as any to consider the possibility of poisonings, as they *are* a real danger in foraging. David Fischer of has a logical view on the practice, and below are some of his words concerning the hallmarks of intelligent foraging, how average people regularly avoid poisonings and who qualifies as an “expert”:

“Millions of North Americans pick and eat wild mushrooms every year, without as much as a belly ache.

Are they “experts”? Yes! At least, they are experts on the edible wild mushrooms they know. Either their parents or grandparents taught them how to identify morels, or puffballs, or meadow mushrooms, or they have a good field guide and they read it… or both.

No one with a reasonable understanding of the importance of properly identifying mushrooms—with a serious awareness that some species are fatally toxic—falls victim to the Death Cap. The folks who eat Death Caps do not use field guides: they just pick the damned things and eat them. No trip to the library. No reading. No spore prints. No idea what a “partial veil” is or what “gill attachment” means.

So… Is it really dangerous to eat wild mushrooms?

How dangerous is it to drive a car? If you’re drunk or careless, it is VERY dangerous; if you’re sensible and pay attention, it is reasonably safe.


Amanita muscaria, related to the phalloides

Consider this: Would you pick and eat an unfamiliar berry simply because it “looked good”? Of course not. Finding, identifying, preparing, and eating wild mushrooms can be a delightful pasttime—IF it is done intelligently.

Otherwise, it is a terrible “accident” waiting to happen.”

I’m so grateful for all the mushroom knowledge made available thanks to the diligent study and reporting of mycologists around the world. They make it possible to forage intelligently.


edit 2/3/17: I replaced all instances of “Destroying Angel” with “Death Cap”. “Destroying Angel” fungi are also poisonous, but this colloquial term usually refers to A. bisporigera, A. virosa and A. magnivelaris, NOT A. phalloides. There is a European (spring destroying angel) A. verna which resembles A. phalloides. A HUGE thanks to 1left for bringing this to my attention, whose blog is a wonderland of knowledge about wildcraft and foraging. You should check it out.


Genus: Amanita

Species: phalloides

Edibility: inedible – highly toxic


*Disclaimer: This site is provided for informational purposes only. Taylor assumes no responsibility or liability for any consequences of readers actions. Though every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, identifications may be incorrect (Taylor *is* a novice) – but that’s where community input helps! Please, feel free to correct misinformation you find (or just add your two cents) in the comments!
Happy foraging!


Immature California Golden chanterelle

(Forageworthy) Fungi Flashback Fridays: Cantharellus californicus*

[680 words, 3-5 min read]

Some call them the mud puppy or oak chanterelle, while others call this choice edible the California Golden chanterelle. Whatever they’re called colloquially, I found them for the first time a few months ago! Chanterelles are known for their earthy taste and apricot-tinged scent, and they can be spied in the oaky woodlands of coastal California. Foragers have found soil rich with this edible gold as far north as Mendocino county and as far south as San Diego county.

California Golden chanterelle in my right hand

You can see why some call them “mud puppies”…

But the new fungi fanatic may not have much practice identifying mushrooms…so how does a forager know she’s hit the jackpot?  There is one well-known and poisonous lookalike: the reportedly bioluminescent Jack O’ Lantern (the common species in the western U.S. is Omphalotus olivascens, while olearius is in Europe). The way that I make sure chanterelles aren’t actually fool’s gold is by comparing gill structures. See a comparison between Omphalotus olivascens and Cantharellus californicus below:

Comparison between the reproductive surfaces of Omphalotus olivascens/Cantharellus californicus

Omphalotus olivascens (left)/Cantharellus californicus (right)

See how the Jack O’ Lantern (left) has deep, broad folds of gills, while the California Golden chanterelle has forked, gill-like ridges that are much shallower? Additionally, I have never seen chanterelles in clusters at bases of trees. I have only seen single fruitings of chanterelles growing in fairy rings on hilly land. I found them amongst leafy litter below a hilltop of Live Oak trees.

Jack O' Lantern mushroom

Omphalotus olivascens (Jack O’ Lantern)

A note on the reported bioluminescence of the Jack O’ Lantern: bioluminescence would be a solid way to confirm whether or not you’ve found fool’s gold or the real thing, as there are zero reports of glowing Cantharellus specimens. But Michael Kuo of reports there is no validity to the claim that Omphalotus olivascens and related fungi glow in the dark. Perhaps one evening I’ll pass a glowing Jack O’ Lantern in a dark forest…that’d be awesome, but I won’t hold my breath after reading Kuo’s account!

pan of shredded California Golden chanterelles

Ready for stewing!

Anyway, chanterelles aren’t my favorite fungi to forage (I like oysters and blewits a lot more, read more about oysters here), but they’re more than edible. In fact, California Golden chanterelles are the most substantial, meaty mushroom I’ve ever tried. They’d probably be great for pickling, if you’re into that.

When I cooked them, I first stewed the chanterelles to increase palatability/edibility. I was surprised at how fibrous and meaty this mushroom is, and I knew I needed to increase the shroom’s tenderness if I hoped to make a palatable dinner.

shredded chanterelles stewing in a pan

Stewing chanterelles

Next, I added them to a base of sautéed onions, garlic and herbs, and gravied them heartily. Then I served them over rice with peas 😋

plate of gravied chanterelle mushrooms over rice with peas

*Looks* just like chicken…but doesn’t taste like it…texture reminded me of cooked bamboo. Flavor wasn’t as distinctive to me as other edible mushrooms.

There are apparently over 500 scientific names applied to the genus Cantharellus, but less than 100 of them are considered scientifically valid. And all of them are edible (as far as I’ve seen in my research), so you are likely to have some species of forageworthy Cantharellus near you.

What Cantharellus species have you identified? Or, have you found mushrooms you *think* are in this genus, but can’t identify? Share your findings in the comments!

The next (Forageworthy) Fungi Flashback Friday will see a post on blewits. I’m fascinated with them right now, and they’re absolutely *amazing* when roasted. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!


Genus:  Cantharellus

Species: californicus

Edibility: choice (though not my jam)

Scaly chanterelle specimens at the MSSF

Turbinellus floccosus a.k.a. the Wooly chanterelle or Scaly chanterelle; vase-shaped like the chanterelle but part of the Gomphus genus




*Disclaimer: This site is provided for informational purposes only. Taylor assumes no responsibility or liability for any consequences of readers actions. Though every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, identifications may be incorrect (Taylor is a novice) – but that’s where community input helps! Please, feel free to correct misinformation you find (or just add your two cents) in the comments!

Happy foraging!