Amanita muscaria var. formosa
It is October, and along with yellow leaves and orange pumpkins, there are large, yellowish-orange mushrooms coming up in my yard in Blacksburg! I found four or five of these mushrooms, growing under a group of hemlock trees, and a whole bunch more on my neighbor’s property, coming up under pines. As it turns out, this is not that unusual. Fly agaric is mycorrhizal on both hardwoods and conifers.
There are a number of subspecies of Amanita muscaria, and they vary widely in color. Locally, in Southwest Virginia, A. muscaria var. formosa is a 2-8 inch tall mushroom distinguished by a yellow cap that is freckled with cottony warts. The gills are creamy white, as is the spore print. The bulbous stipe usually shows the remnants of an annulus (or partial veil) and appears shaggy at the bottom. In the earliest stage of development, the mushroom can appear egg-like.
Look for this common mushroom in summer or fall, growing in hardwood and mixed forests. As for edibility, it is poisonous and psychoactive! (Judging from the fact that legions of gray squirrels in my yard have left these mushrooms alone all week, the word is probably out!)
The name Fly Agaric is derived from the fact that it was once used as an insecticide. Powder made from the mushrooms was mixed with milk and left out for flies to consume. Apparently the flies died in relatively short order!