This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
This, one of the most strikingly beautiful of our toadstools, is figured in Plate 4. Its brilliant cap of yellow, orange, or even scarlet, studded with white or grayish raised spots, can hardly be unfamiliar to even the least observant country walker. Its favorite habitat is the woods, and, in the writer's experience especially, beneath hemlocks and poplars, where he has seen this species year after year in whole companies, and in all stages shown in the plate at the same time, from the globular young specimen almost covered with its white warts just lifting its head above the brown carpet to the fully expanded individual, in which the spots have assumed a shrunken and brownish tint.
The consideration of this species is of the utmost importance, as its beauty is but an alluring mask, which has enticed many to their destruction; among the more recent of its conspicuous victims having been the Czar Alexis of Russia. For this is another cosmopolitan type of mushroom, common alike in America, Great Britain, Europe, and Asia, in all of which countries it is notorious for its poisonous resources. It is commonly known as the "Fly-agaric," its substance macerated in milk having been employed for centuries as an effectual fly-poison. After the reader's introduction to the botanical character of the Amanita, he would, presumably, be somewhat suspicious of the present species. The suggestive white or dingy fragments upon its cap, it is true, would alone arouse his suspicions, but in the examination of the stem for the telltale volva or cup its verification might be somewhat in doubt. It is for this reason that the species is emphasized in these pages, as the Amanita muscarius, judging from the great dissimilarity of its numerous portraits from all countries, would seem to be remarkably protean, especially with reference to its stalk. The majority of the portraits of this reprobate presents the volva as distinct and as clean cut as in the Agaricus vernus just described, and the stalk above as equally smooth, features which are usually at variance with the associated botanical description of the species, which often characterizes the volva as "incomplete" or "obscure," and the stem as "rough and scaly." If the portraits in these works are correct, the Amanita qualities of the species are clearly displayed, but if their accompanying descriptions are to be credited, and such seem to be in perfect accord with the specimens which I have always found, the Agaricus muscarius would seem in need of a more authentic historian.
Used as a fly- poison. Its obscure cup
Pileus: Diameter three to six inches, quite flat at maturity; color brilliant yellow, orange, or scarlet, becoming pale with age, dotted with adhesive white, at length pale brownish warts, the remnants of the volva. Gills: Pure white, very symmetrical, various in length, the shorter ones terminating under the cap with an almost vertical abruptness. Spores: Pure white. A spore-print of this species is shown in Plate 37. Stem: White, yellowish with age, becoming shaggy, at length scaly, the scales below appearing to merge into the form of an obscure cup. Volva: Often obscure, indicated by a mere ragged line of loose outward curved shaggy scales around a bulbous base. Flesh: White. Habitat: Woods and their borders, especially favoring pine and hemlock. Season: Summer and autumn.
Plate IV. Amanita Muscaria.(poisonous.)
The example figured in the plate presents the stem and volva as they have always appeared in specimens obtained by the writer. In the young individuals the stem is waxy-white, becoming later a dull, pale ochre hue, the lower half being shaggy and torn, and beset with loose projecting woolly points which resolve themselves below into scales with loose tips curved outward, and so distantly disposed upon the bulbous base as to leave no marked definition of the continuous rim or opening of a cup. But the cup is there, and in a section of the bud state of the mushroom could have been seen, even as in the white warts upon the surface of the younger specimens we note the evidences of the upper portion of the same white volva. In many other species of Amanita, notably Agaricus vernus, as already mentioned, these volva fragments generally wither and are shed from the cap. They are thus not to be counted on as a permanent token. But in the fly - mushroom they form a distinct character, as they adhere firmly to the smooth skin of the pileus, and in drying, instead of shrivelling and curling and falling off, simply shrink, turn brownish, and in the maturely expanded mushroom appear like scattered drops of mud which have dried upon the pileus. Another peculiar structural feature of this mushroom is shown in the sectional drawing herewith given. The shorter gills, instead of rounding off as they approach the pileus (see a), terminate abruptly almost at right angles to their edge. The contrast from the usual form will be more apparent by comparison with the section of the parasol-mushroom on page 114.