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Amanita muscaria (fly agaric)

One of the most iconic and distinctive of British fungi, fly agaric, with its red cap and white spots, is renowned for its toxicity and hallucinogenic properties.
Amanita muscaria in a wooded area

Amanita muscaria (Photo: Geoffrey Kibby)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam.

Common name: 

fly agaric, fly mushroom

Conservation status: 

Not considered to be of conservation concern. Widespread, and frequent to common throughout its range.


In woodland, or beside isolated trees. Ectomycorrhizal (forming a relationship with tree roots) especially with species of Betula (birch) and Pinus (pine), and occasionally with other tree species.

Key Uses: 

Religious and recreational uses related to its hallucinogenic properties. Insect pest control. Medicinal uses. Forms a food source for some fly larvae.

Known hazards: 

Contains small amounts of the toxin muscarine, which causes sweat-inducing poisoning. Also contains the alkaloids muscimol, ibotenic acid and muscazone, causing psychotropic poisoning, which may be severe in some cases, although deaths are very rare.


Genus: Amanita

About this species

Fly agaric was first described by Carl Linnaeus (Swedish botanist and the father of modern taxonomy) in 1753, as Agaricus muscarius, the epithet deriving from the Latin ‘musca’, or ‘fly’, apparently referring to its use in parts of Europe as an insecticide, crushed in milk for attracting and killing flies.

It is amongst the most iconic of the toadstools, commonly depicted in children’s books and on Christmas cards around the world. It is highly distinctive and, at least when fresh and in good condition, can hardly be confused with any other species.

Its hallucinogenic properties have been well-known for centuries and the species has a long history of use in religious and shamanistic rituals, especially in Siberia. It is a common and widespread fungus, native to much of the north-temperate world, and an important ectomycorrhizal associate of various broadleaved and coniferous trees. Its fruitbodies are also utilised by a wide variety of flies (Diptera) and by some beetles (Coleoptera) as breeding sites.


Agaricus imperialis, Agaricus nobilis, Amanitaria muscaria


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