Amanita jacksonii (Pomerleau)

No Amanita should be eaten. This is the most widespread midwestern version of the well-known European species Amanita caesarea. An unnamed yellow version with larger spores is frequently found in Illinois and Indiana in oak-hickory woods.

 

If you look down while hiking in the forest you may see the striking Amanita jacksonii. Growing from Quebec to central Mexico and throughout the eastern United States, A. jacksonii emerges in the summer and fall from an egg-shaped universal veil—the membranous tissue that protects immature mushroom—as a vivid red or orange oval that soon spreads out into the traditional mushroom shape.

A. jacksonii belongs to one of the largest and most storied mushroom families. Europeans have sought its cousin, A. caesarea, for millennia. As the name implies, A. caesarea was a favorite at the tables of the Roman elite. They called it the Boletus. According to some accounts, the Empress Agrippina had her husband Claudius’s bowl of Boletus poisoned in 54 C.E. The story goes that juice from a poisonous Amanita, A. phalloides, did in the aged Claudius and cleared the way for Agrippina’s son Nero to become emperor.

A. caesarea notwithstanding, mycologists and physicians alike warn non-experts against eating any of the Amanitas, as it is easy to confuse an edible species with toxic cousins given dramatic but apt nicknames like the destroying angels and the death cap.

The forthcoming (May 5, 2014) UIP book Mushrooms of the Midwest describes and illustrates over five hundred of the region’s mushroom species.

Authors Michael Kuo and Andrew S. Methven provide identification keys and thorough descriptions. The authors discuss the DNA revolution in mycology and its consequences for classification and identification, as well as the need for well-documented contemporary collections of mushrooms.

Each “Mushroom Monday” get a taste of this unique and beautifully illustrated book here on the UIP blog.

Photo: Michael Kuo

 

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