Taken today at Beacon Wood Country Park, Bean, Kent. There were absolutely hundreds of these fine fungi in various stages of growth, a quite magnificent display. The Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria, is a hallucinogen and must be considered poisonous. These attractive fungi often appear in groups and are a common sight in all kinds of woodlands. Usually recurring in the same place for several years, Amanita muscaria is found frequently throughout the northern hemisphere, including Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, Asia, the USA and Canada. Young Amanita muscaria fruitbodies are covered entirely in pointed white warts. When they first emerge from the leaf litter of the forest floor, the young fruitbodies are covered entirely in pointed white warts. As the caps expand the red pellicle shows through until eventually the cap comprises mainly red skin with white warts distributed more or less evenly across its surface. Heavy rain or even contact with animals is sometimes sufficient to remove some or all of the white flakes from the cap of a Fly Agaric, so you may see some 'bald' specimens. The common name Fly Agaric is a reference to the tradition of using this mushroom as an insecticide. In some European countries caps of Amanita muscaria are crumbled up and placed in saucers of milk to attract house flies. The flies drink the milk, which contains toxins - they are soluble in water and hence in milk also - dissolved from within the mushroom, and the flies soon become drowsy, collapse and die (or they simply drown in their spiked milk drink). The specific epithet muscaria comes from the Latin word musca, meaning 'a fly'.
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