At around about this time of year we routinely receive enquiries from park visitors about something bright and colourful that pops up. They are small, red, spotty but do not touch them please!
Fly Agaric – the name may not be immediately recognisable, but the sight of this little fungus grabs most people’s attention!
The Fly Agaric (its species name is Amanita muscaria), according to the Encyclopaedia of Life, is a “classic European fairytale mushroom, bearing white gills and white warts on a typically bright red cap”.
It probably originated in Asia or Europe, where it then “spread to cover most parts of the northern hemisphere.
In more recent times it has been transported (unintentionally by humans) to areas of the southern hemisphere. The fungus contains a range of toxic compounds and poisoning can occur, especially in young children and older people.
I’ve seen them before!
The Fly Agaric features prominently in mythology and fairy tales and has featured memorably in television shows such as the BBC’s The Magic Roundabout. It had been used for various purposes throughout history including as an insecticide in the middle ages to kill flies (although it has not been proved to work very well for this purpose).
In more modern times, anyone who has played the Super Mario Bros console game will certainly recognise this little fungus, while those of an older generation may remember the dancing mushroom sequence in the Disney movie Fantasia.
Of course, for many, the most memorable place they will have seen them is on The Smurfs. The Fly Agaric was often seen as one of the mushroom homes in the Smurf Village!
Please look but don’t touch!
So there you are, some background information behind these bright mushrooms. We encourage you to take a look, but please don’t touch. If you need to get a closer look, let’s help you digitally!