Fly agaric

Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric (play /ˈæɡərɪk/) or fly amanita (play /ˌæməˈnaɪtə/), is a poisonous and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita. Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria has been unintentionally introduced to many countries in the southern hemisphere, generally as a symbiont with pine plantations, and is now a true cosmopolitan species. It associates with various deciduous and coniferous trees. The quintessential toadstool, it is a large white-gilled, white-spotted, usually deep red mushroom, one of the most recognizable and widely encountered in popular culture. Several subspecies, with differing cap colour, have been recognised to date, including the brown regalis (considered a separate species), the yellow-orange flavivolvata, guessowii, formosa, and the pinkish persicina. Genetic studies published in 2006 and 2008 show several sharply delineated clades that may represent separate species.

Although it is generally considered poisonous, deaths from its consumption are extremely rare, and it is eaten as a food in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America after parboiling. Amanita muscaria is noted for its hallucinogenic properties, with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol. It was used as an intoxicant and entheogen by the peoples of Siberia and has a religious significance in these cultures. There has been much speculation on traditional use of this mushroom as an intoxicant in places other than Siberia; however, such traditions are far less well documented. The American banker and amateur ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson proposed that the fly agaric was in fact the soma of the ancient Rig Veda texts of India; since its introduction in 1968 this theory has gained both followers and detractors in anthropological literature.