The Woodland Trust Scotland would like to hear about any early sightings of fly agaric in an online survey. Fly agaric or Amanita muscaria is a common species of fungus that is widespread throughout the UK. They are commonly found on light soils in mixed woodland and heaths among birch and pine. These iconic toadstools are highly toxic, so do take care around them.
Rory Syme from the trust said: “The wet summer we’ve had may mean that it will appear early this year. In previous years sightings have been recorded as early as the end of June. Keeping track of key events in nature helps us record the changing seasons. Natural phenomena such as bird migration, changes in leaves and the appearance of flowers and fungi are some of the best indicators for climate change.” He added, “Fly agaric can be dangerous, so the best advice is to look but don’t touch.”
Record your sightings through the Nature’s Calendar Project, which helps observe signs of changing seasons across the UK at www.naturescalendar.org.uk
Five fantastic fly agaric facts
1. Fly agaric was traditionally used as an insecticide. The toxic toadstool contains ibotenic acid, which attracts and kills flies, so the cap was once broken up and sprinkled into milk to get rid of them.
2. It is possible to come across a fly agaric that doesn’t have spots, as they are actually remnants of a white veil of tissue that encloses the young mushroom and can sometimes be washed off by the rain.
3. In Victorian and Edwardian times, it was commonly found on Christmas cards as a sign of good luck and its colours may have been the inspiration for Santa’s red and white suit.
4. Fly agaric is mycorrhizal, which means that it has a symbiotic relationship with its host tree, which provides the fungust with carbohydrates in return for increased absorbtion of water and minerals.
5. One of the effects of consuming fly agaric is a perceived distortion in the size of objects. It has been said that Lewis Carroll’s hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was inviting her to take a bite from a fly agaric.