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Alice in Wonderland and the Magic Mushrooms.

Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric (pronounced /ˈæɡərɪk/) or fly Amanita (pronounced /ˌæməˈnaɪtə/), is a psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita. Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria has been unintentionally introduced to many countries in the Southern Hemisphere, generally as a symbiont with pine plantations, and is now a true cosmopolitan species. It associates with various deciduous and coniferous trees. The quintessential toadstool, it is a large white-gilled, white-spotted, usually deep red mushroom, one of the most recognizable and widely encountered in popular culture. Several subspecies, with differing cap colour have been recognised to date, including the brown regalis (considered a separate species), the yellow-orange flavivolata, guessowii, and formosa, and the pinkish persicina. Genetic studies published in 2006 and 2008 show several sharply delineated clades which may represent separate species.

Amanita muscaria It was used as an intoxicant and entheogen by the peoples of Siberia and has a religious significance in these cultures. There has been much speculation on traditional use of this mushroom as an intoxicant in places other than Siberia; however, such traditions are far less well-documented. The American banker and amateur ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson proposed the fly agaric was in fact the Soma talked about in the ancient Rig Veda texts of India; since its introduction in 1968, this theory has gained both detractors and followers in the anthropological literature.

Today Amanita muscaria mushrooms are widely known: the Alice in Wonderland mushrooms, the fairytale mushrooms regularly seen in fairy tale books. Yet most people aren't aware that they are, in fact, real. A must have addition to any ethnobotanical collection.

This article was published on Thursday 08 July, 2010.
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