Genus Amanita: The Blushers
A. rubescens, A. flavorubens/flavorubescens, A. novinupta, A. rubescens var. alba
Mature blushers have a definite swelling and scaliness at the base, but not a big bulb – and certainly not a real cup – although the western species can have a more substantial swelling when young, and seems to root more in general. They are all pretty much the same size: a range centered around 2-4” high and 4-5” across (although the western one is usually a bit stockier).
They also have a persistent skirt-like ring. If you have a “blushing” Amanita with a leathery cup at the base and no ring, you have an Amidella. If you have a larger, powdery mushroom with a substantial bulb that is somewhat pinkish on its own even before blushing, you have Amanita daucipes or A. roseitincta.
“Blushing” implies a fairly light color to most of us, and the reddening of these mushrooms on the stem may be a pinkish color, especially in insect holes. But on the caps, the reddish color that develops is usually a very dark brownish red, a brownish wine color that can be darker than maroon.
In age – or if it’s had a tough time emerging – it may have extensive dark red staining, and this may occur in streaks and other irregular forms. Because of the frequently irregular shapes of this bruising (for example, if the caps have to make their way up through ground with dense roots) it often makes the caps look dirty or stained.
For a while when it is just out of the button stage but not fully expanded, it often has a distinctive “sloping marshmallow” shape, where the center of the cap is fairly flat, and then there are abruptly sloping sides which are only slightly curved. Check the flavorubens tab to see how this shape plays out developmentally as the mushroom opens.
Our North American blusher is genetically distinct from the original Amanita rubescens, which is European; but the North American blusher doesn’t have an official name of its own yet, so we’re stuck using A. rubescens until something official goes through.
In cases in between the brown and yellow colors, you can end up with a weird burnt orange color on the cap.
The yellow-colored ones can look a bit like other Amanitas with a yellow universal veil, like Amanita flavoconia and A. frostiana. However, it is much larger than them. Note in the three photos above on this tab how the cap opens: the central area stays flat, while the sides come up like an umbrella.
At right, a small Amanita flavorubens. You can see the very slim swelling at the base of the stalk. To the left of my thumb, a few bites taken out of the stem have turned dark pink. Although most of the flakes on the cap have bleached white, there’s one directly facing the camera, at the very edge of the cap, that’s still yellow. The ring is hidden under the cap.
There are two names in use for this species: Amanita flavorubens (Berkeley & Montagne) E.-J. Gilbert (from 1856), and Amanita flavorubescens Atkinson (from 1902). As you can see, they both had pretty much the same idea: a mushroom that was yellow (“flavo”) and turned red (“rub(esc)ens”). As you can also see, Berkeley and Montagne’s name is about 50 years older, which means that it takes precedence, assuming that both names refer to the same mushroom. Berkeley and Montagne were European mycologists, by the way; but they state explicitly that the specimens they are basing the new name on come from Ohio. So it’s not a case of a name for a European species being applied mistakenly to an American one.
It’s not clear why Atkinson felt his own name was necessary — his own description of the new species makes no mention of how it differs from Berkeley and Montagne’s, and he was a conscientious worker; so it looks like he just didn’t know about the older name. Here we follow the officially correct path and go with A. flavorubens in the text. For many years, however, the name flavorubescens was much more well known in North America, so we list it here to match up with most of your books and so on.
It is also more likely to turn a delicate color that a non-mycologist would actually call pink, rather than the dark wine-brown that is more typical of the eastern blushers where bruised (on the cap) or cut (on the base).
Of course, in old age, it can acquire dark brownish-red stains, just like the easterners.
Whether young or old, it tends to root down into the ground a bit more than the eastern blushers.
Here’s one more picture, just for the beauty of it.
Amanita rubescens var. alba
As you can see, it is perfectly capable of turning the same deep brownish red as its more mainstream cousin.
But until that happens, it is a much whiter mushroom than the standard A. rubescens.
But when it does stain darkly, the effect can be more dramatic than on the standard rubescens.