Amanita excelsa var. spissa (Fr.) P. Kumm. - Grey Spotted Amanita

Distribution - Taxonomic History - Etymology - Identification - Culinary Notes - Reference Sources

Amanita spissa - Grey Spotted Amanita

Taxonomy

Phylum: Basidiomycota

Class: Agaricomycetes

Order: Agaricales

Family: Amanitaceae

Sometimes referred to as the False Panthercap, Amanita excelsa is very variable in appearance and samples are sometimes mistakenly recorded as Panthercap, Amanita pantherina. Its most commonly cited synonym is Amanita spissa.

Distribution

Quite a frequent find in many parts of Britain and Ireland, Amanita excelsa var. spissa occurs also in most parts of mainland Europe and on thec eastern side of North America.

Amanita spissa, Grey Spotted Amanita, in spruce woodland

Amanita excelsa var. excelsa has a pale brown cap and is more slender in structure. It is rather less common than var. spissa.

Taxonomic history

Described in 1821 and named Agaricus excelsus by the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries, this mushroom was placed in the Amanita genus by Paul Kummer in 1871 and renamed Amanita excelsa. Synonyms of Amanita excelsa var. excelsa include Agaricus excelsus Fr., Agaricus excelsus var. cariosus Fr., Agaricus validus Fr., Amanita cariosa (Fr.) Gillet, Amanita excelsa (Fr.) P. Kumm., and Amanita spissa var. valida (Fr.) E.-J. Gilbert.

Two varieties of Amanita excelsa occur in Britain: Amanita excelsa var. excelsa (Fr.) P. Kumm. (syn. Amanita spissa (Fr.) Opiz), and Amanita excelsa var. spissa (Fr.) Neville & Poumarat.

Amanita excelsa var. excelsa

(Amanita spissa var. valida (Fr.) E.-J. Gilbertis a synonym of Amanita excelsa var. spissa (Fr.) Neville & Poumarat.) The two varieties are similar in colour but Amanita excelsa var. spissa is the more robust of the two forms (and in Britain and Ireland the more common) and is said by some to smell faintly of radish when the flesh is cut. Most of the pictures shown on this page are of Amanita excelsa var. spissa, but the specimens seen here on the left are probably of Amanita excelsa var. excelsa, having pale caps and and, when cut, smelling slightly of radish. Separating the two varieties is difficult, however, and many authorities still treat them as merely minor form differences.

Etymology

The specific epithet excelsa is a Latin adjective that translates to elevated or lofty, while spissa means dense or crowded - a reference to the closely-spaced gills of these fungi.

Although the stem flesh of Amanita excelsa (both varieties) does not turn pink when cut or bruised as the Blusher Amanita rubescens does), some people refer to these mushrooms as the European False Blusher. In stature they have much more in common with Blushers than with Panthercaps, the origin of their former common name False Panthercap.)

Identification guide

Cap of Amanita excelsa var. spissa

Cap

8 - 15cm diameter; brown or grey-brown; usually retaining irregular grey patches or fragments of the universal veil, the cap of Amanita excelsa is initially domed, becoming almost flat or occasionally slightly concave at maturity. The velar patches are easily washed or wiped off the cap surface. Beneath the pellicle the flesh of the cap is white and firm.

Gills and stem of Amanita excelsa var. spissa

Gills

While most Amanita species have free gills, the gills of Amanita spissa are adnexed. They are white and crowded.

Stem

The stem of Amanita excelsa var. spissa is 8 - 12cm long and 1.5 - 2.5cm in diameter; white and with a transient ring that is usually grooved on its upper surface. The stipe is smooth or lined above the ring; covered in white scales below.

At the swollen base there is no clear volval gutter and the volva itself is no longer evident when the fruitbody reaches maturity.

 

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal, 9-10 x 8-9µm; amyloid.

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

var. spissa: a faint, unpleasant odour (not of radish), but no distinctive taste.

var. excelsa: a faint odour of radish, but no distinctive taste.

Habitat

Mycorhizal with hardwood and softwood trees, often most abundant near the edge of mixed woodland.

Season

July to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Amanita pantherina has white (not grey) velar remains on the cap, free gills an ungrooved ring, and a distinct volval ridge at the base of the stem.

Amanita excelsa, Lampeter, West Wales UKCulinary Notes

Because of the risk of misidentification it is inadvisable to eat the Grey Spotted Amanita, although some authorities claim that these neat but sombre-looking fungi are edible, although nothing special in terms of flavour.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly, 2011.

Funga Nordica: 2nd edition 2012. Edited by Knudsen, H. & Vesterholt, J. ISBN 9788798396130

BMS List of English Names for Fungi

Geoffrey Kibby, (2012) Genus Amanita in Great Britain, self-published monograph.

Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers (2008). Dictionary of the Fungi; CABI

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Other web pages about this species

Leif Goodwin (UK)

AMINT (Italy)

Watermarked preview (new window) of Photolibrary image FN319f_amanita_spissa.jpg (Large file)...

Watermarked preview (new window) of Photolibrary image FN320f_amanita_spissa.jpg (Large file)...