Today on our #NatureDoodlewash hike, we’ve wandered across some poisonous toadstools that also go by the scientific name of Amanita muscaria and the more popular name of fly agaric. It received this name because since medieval times it was used as an insecticide, crushed in milk for attracting and killing flies. Despite it’s toxicity, it’s one of the more iconic toadstools, showing up in children’s books and Christmas cards around the globe. Stranger still is that this pretty little fungus has a long history of being used as a drug, enjoyed for its hallucinogenic properties. Though, I guess, depending on your families, this could really perk up a holiday celebration.
Fly agaric contains psychoactive alkaloids, and has been used in Asia and parts of northern Europe for religious and recreational purposes. The latter purpose is more simply translated into, “these ‘shrooms will get you high.” Unfortunately, the “euphoria” these promise comes with nausea, drowsiness, increased saliva, sweating and mood changes. This doesn’t really seem worth it for a bit of euphoria, but I guess its not much different than the label of every single pharmaceutical on the market today. Yes you’ll feel better, but it “may cause” some seriously unpleasant things to happen that you can no longer sue us for, since we’ve just admitted to them in this microscopic type.
So, I think I’ll leave this little treat to the shamans and just stick to a lovely glass of wine instead. Truthfully, at my age, if I actually drink enough wine to experience euphoria, I’m likely on my way to the same adverse side effects. But all of this fails to dim the fairytale appeal of these little mushrooms. The very appearance of the fly agaric sends you into a world of fantasy. As you gaze across them you pause and wonder if what you saw was real. Is that a fairy you saw glancing past and why are you sure there must be a gnome nearby? Perhaps that’s the real hallucinogenic appeal. And assuming you tell no one what you just saw, you can enjoy them without all those embarrassing side effects.
Join me throughout the month of June on a virtual nature hike! Show everyone what you love most in nature with a watercolor sketch or painting and tag your images #NatureDoodlewash so we can all enjoy it with you! I’ll create a featured artist gallery of our global hike at the end of the month!