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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Amanitaceae of the PNW
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to the Amanitaceae


The Amanitaceae family is defined by white spores, free gills (although they don't always look as free as other free gilled families) and the presence of a universal veil. That universal veil is often composed of material that makes Amanitas look like they "hatch" out of eggs, leaving warts all over the cap and other areas of the mushroom after the mushroom grows. Warts are defined as removable pieces of material that are not part of the mushroom itself. The similarly defined Lepiota "family" is often scaly, but those scales are part of the mushroom body and can't be removed.

Most mushrooms you will find in this family are Amanita. The rare Limacella genus is related, but the universal veil is a layer of slime, so they are entirely slippery (cap and stem) white spored mushrooms with free gills. But as the free gills can be subtle, Limacella are hard to recognize without practice.

abundant common uncommon rare - colour codes match my Pictorial Key and are my opinions and probably reflect my bias of living in W WA. Rare species may be locally common in certain places at certain times.

Summary of Interesting Results

Here are some of the newest, most interesting results of the study:

  • We have many, many grisettes in the Amanita vaginata group, most of them unnamed. These are some of the least understood species in the PNW.
  • Amanita silvicola is not in section Lepidella with A. smithiana, it is in section Validae.
  • We have two rare, white capped blushing species, Amanita novinupta (spring) and Amanita cruentilemurum (fall).
  • We also have two rare, brown capped blushers, Amanita rubescens, and the similar, slightly blushing A. spissa.
  • We do occasionally see the real Amanita muscaria under introduced trees, and we also rarely see a sister species of our own, but our very common fly agaric species is a different species, and one name that is probably valid for all four colour variants is Amanita chrysoblema.
  • Other rare blushers are found here too - Amanita sponsus n.p. and Amanita 'citrina PNW01'.
  • At least in WA and BC, most of our stocky brown or brownish-yellow capped "panther" specimens are likely Amanita pantherinoides.
  • At least in WA and BC, most of our slender, yellow "gemmata" specimens are likely Amanita pacificogemmata n.p. but other gemmata-like species exist as well.
  • The only Limacella with a good name is the locally described species Limacella roseicremea. All our orange, red and white species are not the mushrooms they have been thought to be, but local species needing new names. In the case of L. 'glioderma', it is a species group of three local species.

Amanita section Vaginatae - click to expand

The so-called "grisettes". These species have no partial veil. A. velosa is in this section but sometimes appears to have a partial veil. The volva is a sac. Brown or grey striate caps. Inamyloid spores.

Species mentioned: Amanita constricta, pachycolea, fulva, sp-NW04, sp-NW11, sp-OR01, sp-OR02, castellae, velosa, populiphila, alaskensis, friabilis, protecta, sp-OR03, obconiobasis, subnigra, lindgreniana, pahasapaensis, vaginata, vaginata var alba, sp-NW05, sp-NW09, sp-constricta04, coryli, minnesorora n.p.

Amanita section Phalloideae - click to expand

This group contains mostly deadly poisonous species. Nothing you can do to these mushrooms will remove the poison (a cyclopeptide called amatoxin) and prevent them from killing you if you eat them. They are recognized by the sac volva (as if the mushroom is sitting in a sac), usually bulbous stem, usually a non-striate cap and partial veil. (But both the volva and the partial veil can fall off). Amyloid spores.

Species mentioned: Amanita phalloides, ocreata

Amanita section Caesareae - click to expand

The so-called "coccoras". These Amanitas are considered edible, but can very much resemble deadly poisonous species. Recognized by a sac volva and a partial veil (just like the deadly poisonous A. phalloides) but typically with a more striate cap, non-bulbous stem and thicker sac material that tends to leave one giant eggy patch on the cap. They can get quite large. These are fairly rare in the PNW, unlike the deadly poisonous A. phalloides which is becoming more and more common in urban areas. Inamyloid spores.

Species mentioned: Amanita calyptroderma, lanei, calyptrata, vernicoccora, calyptratoides

Amanita section Validae - click to expand

Continuing the reputation of bizarre properties in Amanita, this section contains species with hemolytic properties when raw - in other words, they make red blood cells explode, at least in a Petri dish. Recognized by an abrupt bulb at the stem base and usually a coloured partial veil. Parts of these species usually turn red when handled (blush). Amyloid spores.

Species mentioned: Amanita augusta, franchetii, aspera, porphyria, novinupta, cruentilemurum, rubescens, orsonii, spissa, excelsa, citrina, sponsus, silvicola, sp-NW10

Amanita sections Lepidella and Saproamanita - click to expand

Sometimes not easily recognized as Amanitas, they may represent old lineages before strong, obvious volvas evolved. The universal veil has not developed to leave the same type of material on the cap or bottom of stem. It may simply be a mass of cottony tissues that makes the mushrooms look fluffy, until it washes off. Saproamanita can be recognized by being found far away from trees (in grasses, marshes or desert areas), as they are the only Amanita that are not mycorrhizal, another possible artifact of them being an old lineage. They are mostly white mushrooms, and at least Lepidella can contain deadly poisonous species (Don't confuse with Matsutake! That could be a deadly mistake). Amyloid spores.

Species mentioned: Amanita smithiana, silvicola, magniverrucata, pruittii, armillariiformis, prairiicola

Amanita section Amanita - click to expand

None of the above characteristics. Universal veil may leave warts on the cap. Volva is often concentric circles or a collar. Most mushrooms in this group are poisonous as well as hallucinogenic, in a way entirely different from "magic mushrooms" (Psilocybe). The most common symptoms after ingestion are vomiting and other gastrointestinal distress, delusions of grandeur, temporary coma-like state and amnesia. The toxins are water soluble. Inamyloid spores.

The unique furry grey Amanita 'farinosa PNW04' with no visible veils is in a unique subsection apart from all the others.

Species mentioned: Amanita muscaria, muscaria var. formosa, muscaria var. guessowii, muscaria subsp. flavivolvata, muscaria var. alba, chrysoblema, aprica, pantherina, gemmata, junquillea, pantherinoides, praegemmata, umbrinidisca, ameripanthera, breckonii, pacificogemmata, pseudobreckonii n.p., alpinicola, farinosa, aurantisquamosa


Limacella - click to expand

Hard to recognize, as the universal veil is a layer of slime, but they can be recognized with practice by the free gills (although not always as obviously free as in other families) and slimy nature, especially on the caps. The species fall into three groups, which some consider separate genera, but I will treat them as sections. All are rare. Inamyloid spores.

Genera mentioned: Limacella, Zhuliangomyces, Limacellopsis
Species mentioned: Limacella glioderma, delicata, glischra, illinita, roseicremea, solidipes, macmurphyi


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