The bright red top of the fly agaric mushroom, known as Amanita muscaria, is often featured on book covers about fungi. It is easily recognizable and also hazardous, as it contains toxins and has hallucinogenic properties.
The origin of its name is linked to its traditional purpose of eliminating flies. By placing some of the mushroom in a small amount of milk on a plate, flies will be lured in and ultimately die after consuming it.
During this time of year, it is common to see these fungi growing in wooded areas, typically near birch and pine trees. Fungi have a symbiotic relationship with trees, where their mycelium, similar to roots, extend across the forest floor and exchange nutrients with the tree’s roots. Researchers are still working to comprehend the intricacies of this connection.
For centuries, the mind-altering effects of this mushroom have been acknowledged, as seen in the portrayal of Alice in Wonderland consuming a fly agaric and subsequently experiencing a decrease in size.
Some ancient civilisations from the east are said to have made potions from it to help priests have visions in religious ceremonies. While few people die from eating them, this exotic fruit of the fungus is best admired from a distance.