Grisette

OK! Something other than a bird —

The amanitas are some of the most poisonous mushrooms. I read that 90% of all fatal mushroom poisonings are caused by amanitas. The grisette is one amanita that is edible. Personally, I will not eat any of the amanitas since a mistake in identification can result in liver failure. No thanks!

The grisette (Amanita vaginata) is found throughout North America in mixed forests, especially those that are predominately conifer. It is mycorrhizal, growing in association with tree roots.

The grisette develops from an egglike covering called the universal veil. When this egglike shape first appears above the ground it can resemble a puffball. (Puffballs should be cut open before eating to ascertain that they are puffballs, not an undeveloped amanita mushroom.) As the stalk grows the veil breaks. Bits of the white veil may stick to the top or margins of the cap. Most of the veil is retained as a cup or sheath (volva) at the bottom of the stem. The cap is gray or brown (there are many color variations), radially grooved along the margin and up to four inches in diameter.  A central knob is visible on the cap. The gills are white and free, meaning they do not connect directly to the top of the stem. As with all amanitas, the spores are white.

These specimens were collected in a conifer forest near Ashland OR. There is another grisette, the western grisette (Amanita pachycolea) that looks almost exactly like the grisette. The main difference is that the western grisette is very large. I have seen some specimens of the western grisette along the North Umpqua trail that were at least ten inches in diameter and nearly a foot tall. I feel confident that these pictures are the grisette because the mature mushrooms were small.

A grisette was a French working-class woman who often wore clothing made of cheap, unbleached cloth that was a grayish color. The name of this mushroom is thought to derive from the color of the clothing worn by a grisette. Who knows?

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