Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Agaricales - Family: Amanitaceae
A beautiful but poisonous fungus, the white veil fragments on the ochre-brown cap are a helpful distinguishing feature of the Panthercap, as it is commonly called. This mushroom contains toxins similar to those in the Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria.
Beware of confusiing the Panthercap with Amanita excelsa, which is more common than Amanita pantherina. The veil fragments on the caps of Amanita excelsa are grey, whereas on Amanita pantherina they are pure white.
For a detailed description of the Amanita genus and identification of common species see our Simple Amanita Key...
Quite a rare find in Britain, the Panthercap is much more common in southern Europe. The cap colour is very variable and cannot be used as a reliable identification feature: we have found Panthercaps with pale ochre caps as well as some very dark brown ones. The specimen shown above, excavated to reveal the structure of the volva and stem base, is from a mixed Cork Oak/pine woodland site near to Aljezir, in south-west Portugal. Many other Panthercaps including a few with much darker caps and one or two much paler were found within a radius of 20 metres.
The specific epithet pantherina and the common name both refer to the brown-and-white spotted appearance of the cap of this mushroom which bears some resemblance to the two-tone coat of a Panther.
Swiss-born mycologist Augustin Pyramis De Candolle (1778 - 1841) described this species in 1815, naming it Agaricus pantherinus. (Most of the gilled mushrooms were included initially in the genus Agaricus!) In 1871, Paul Kummer (1834 - 1912), a German mycologist, moved the Panthercap to its present genus, naming it Amanita pantherina.
The Panthercap can contain the psychoactive chemical compounds ibotenic acid and muscimol as well as muscazone and muscarine (but they may not always be in significant concentrations). These are not the same as the psychoactive chemicals associated with the Liberty Cap, Psilocybe semilanceata, which is the most common (in Britain) of the so-called Magic Mushrooms; that little grassland mushroom gets (or perhaps that should be gives!) its kicks from quite different psychoactive compounds: psilocybin and baeocystin. Nevertheless, some people do treat the Panthercap as one of the so-called magic mushrooms.
The psychoactive compounds contained in Panthercaps are also toxins, and that means that this species must be treated as a poisonous mushroom.
The pair of Panthercaps shown above were seen beside a track through a Cork Oak forest near Monchique, in the Algarve region opf southern Portugal. Panthercaps are much more common in southern Europe than they are in northern Europe.
The cap of Amanita pantherina ranges from 5 to 12cm in diameter. Shiny brown or grey-brown with a very finely striate margin, the cap is initially domed but tends to flatten as the fruitbody matures. Pure white remains of the universal veil are dotted, usually fairly evenly, over the cap surface.
White, free and crowded, the gills of Amanita pantherina are fairly broad.
The stem of Amanita pantherina ranges from 6 to 12cm tall and is pure white with a hanging ring that is initially quite chunky (as shown on the left) but often becomes thin and floppy in more mature specimens.
The slightly swollen stem base retains the white remains of the volva, usually as one or more woolly rings or as a helix above a narrow gutter.
Broadly ellipsoidal to ovoid, smooth, 8-12 x 6.7-7.5µm; inamyloid.
Odour not distinctive, but when bruised the flesh smells slightly of radish. Do not attempt to taste this deadly poisonous toadstool.
Habitat & Ecological role
Ectomycorhizal mainly with hardwood trees; most often found under oaks or Beech.
August to November in Britain and Ireland; often up to three months later in the far south of Europe.
Amanita excelsa, the False Panthercap, is far more common in the British Isles than Amanita pantherina. Amanita excelsa has grey veil fragments on its cap; on most specimens the stem is stout, and the stem base does not have a distinct volval gutter.
The caps of some samples of Amanita rubescens, the Blusher, are brown but their stems and the cap flesh always turn pink or red when damaged.
Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd Edition, Pat O'Reilly 2016, reprinted by Coch-y-bonddu Books in 2022.
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.
This page includes pictures kindly contrubuted by David Kelly.
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