The booted amanitas: Subsections Gemmatae and Pantherinae

The panthers and gemmed Amanitas: A. albocreata, A. aprica, A. frostiana, A “gemmata”, A. “pantherina”, A. multisquamosa, A. russuloides, A. velatipes

 

The European Amanita pantherina Illustration from Giacomo Bresadola's Iconographia mycologica (1927)

The European Amanita pantherina
Illustration from Giacomo Bresadola’s Iconographia mycologica (1927)

There are two groups of booted Amanitas: the panthers and the gemmed Amanitas. The pantherinae and gemmatae have usually been treated as separate groups, built around the large, dark brown A. pantherina and the much smaller yellow A. gemmata. That’s is pretty much how these species groups split up in Europe (where the taxonomy was devised). However, this doesn’t fit our North American mushrooms very well: we only have one dark brown species, and it isn’t very big, which also means that our biggest ones in North America are pale.
The European concept of Amanita gemmata (as A. jonquillea) Illustration from Giacomo Bresadola's Iconographia mycologica (1927)

The European, very yellow, concept of Amanita gemmata (as A. jonquillea)
Illustration from Giacomo Bresadola’s Iconographia mycologica (1927)

Note that I said “pale” instead of “yellow.” The color of pale booted Amanitas in North America is usually listed as yellow (albeit a pale or grayish yellow), which I take as a holdover from the European concept of gemmata. As you will see from the photos, in North America these mushrooms are often a pale, creamy tan, light brown, or almost white; and when there is yellow on them, it often shades into one of the other colors. Our only North American booted Amanita that’s a really solid yellow is Amanita aprica, which is also our most massive booted Amanita and looks quite different from any European species in the group. In any case, for purposes of identification, I am treating here all the members of section Amanita that have this kind of a bulb, regardless of their color or size.
The downrolled sock version of a booted Amanita base. Photo by Debbie Viess

The downrolled sock version of a booted Amanita base
Photo by Debbie Viess

These Amanitas are called “booted” because they have a rounded bulb at their base, with a rim near the stalk. The rim may be raised or rolled down at the top, like a sock that has been rolled down a little around someone’s leg.
Being able to place an Amanita‘s bulb as “booted” is not a sure-fire thing. The easiest group to confuse these with is the citrina/brunnescens group in the Validae, especially since the two groups have pretty much the same set of colors: pale yellow or tan, or dark brown. But in the Validae the bulb is cottony-soft for the pale yellow ones (on the citrina side of things) and is vertically cleft (and often angular and flat on top) for the dark brown-capped ones like brunnescens. Plus, the citrina/brunnescens group is in the subgenus Lepidella, so they will have amyloid spores while the booted Amanitas do not. So if you want to make sure, that’s the official way.
Some older A. velatipes, showing how stacks of rims on the stem can get jagged. Photo by Eric Smith

Some older A. velatipes, showing how stacks of bulb rims on the stem can get jagged.
Photo by Eric Smith

Another source of confusion is that sometimes the rim of the bulb detaches and rides up the stalk of the mushroom as it expands, leaving an extra rim (or two or three) stretched tightly around the stalk. You can see this in the panther picture at the very top of the page.
Well, there it isn’t very confusing, as those rims are new and smooth. But if the booted Amanita is old and these rims are deteriorating, they can get jagged and irregular. This can lead to confusion with subsection Amanita (the muscaria group), which characterized by having a stalk of jagged cogwheel-like rings at the base of the stalk. If the rings are confusing you this way, it’s best to remember that the booted Amanitas are generally these very washed out pale yellow and tan colors (except for Amanita frostiana, which certainly is colored like the mushrooms in subsection Amanita; and of course the PNW panther, which is dark brown), while the mushrooms in subsection Amanita are usually bright red and orange, and if they are yellow it’s a bright one.
This west coast booted Amanita has a very dark universal veil, which has left dark flakes on the cap and a dark edge to the ring on the stalk. This is not a feature mentioned in any current scientific description of a booted Amanita. Photo by Debbie Viess

This west coast booted Amanita has a very dark universal veil, which has left dark flakes on the cap and a dark edge to the ring on the stalk. This is not a feature mentioned in any current scientific description of a booted Amanita.
Photo by Debbie Viess

There are a lot of these pale booted Amanitas, all across the continent; and most of them are still officially unnamed, especially the smaller ones. So don’t be surprised if your find doesn’t exactly match anything listed here.
The booted Amanitas generally contain the same toxins as in most of Section Amanita.

Amanita albocreata

Amanita albocreata Photo by Damon Brunette

Amanita albocreata
Photo by Damon Brunette

Amanita albocreata Photo by Leon Shernoff

Amanita albocreata
Photo by Leon Shernoff

A. albocreata is usually about 2½” across — it is thus intermediate in size between the larger east coast panthers and quite small gemmatae. It is yellow or yellowish brown in the center, fading to white at the edges, and usually quite shiny and striate. It has no ring, which distinguishes it from A. multisquamosa, which has similar cap colors.

Amanita aprica

Amanita aprica. Photo by Ron Pastorino

Amanita aprica, showing yellow, frosted top
Photo by Ron Pastorino

The "frosted" top of mature Amanita aprica Photo by Debbie Viess

The top of a young Amanita aprica, showing how the universal veil is still thick and even chunky in the center, but is being stretch into a thin “frosting” at the edges by the expansion of the cap
Photo by Debbie Viess

Amanita aprica is a broad, husky west coast species with a bright yellow-orange cap. The universal veil is tightly attached to the cap, giving it a frosted appearance in mature individuals where the cap has expanded and stretched the universal veil thin over it.


Amanita aprica in profile, showing stubby basal bulb. Photo by Debbie Viess

Amanita aprica in profile, showing stubby basal bulb
Photo by Debbie Viess

The bulb is usually not rounded, and actually quite stubby; often the only sign of it is the “rim”, which is here present only as a band or collar near the bottom of the stalk.
Unusually for Amanitas, this mushroom often emerges from the duff only partially, creating “mushrumps” in the forest floor, and partly subterranean fruitings.
Some semi-subterranean Amanita aprica. Photo by Tim Sage

Some semi-subterranean Amanita aprica<
hoto by Tim Sage

Amanita frostiana

Amanita frostiana, still young and fully colored Photo by Eric Smith

Amanita frostiana, still young and fully colored
Photo by Eric Smith

Amanita frostiana is distinctive among the booted Amanitas in having a brightly, warmly colored cap that starts out reddish orange and fades to yellow, starting at the edges. Also unique among the booted Amanitas is a yellow universal veil that leaves yellow flakes on the cap and often coats the rim of the basal bulb (and sometimes the stalk) with yellow. Like other Amanitas with a yellow universal veil, that color fades to white in the sun, just as the cap color fades from reddish to yellowish orange and finally to pale yellow.
Note also that the cap is clearly striate while still quite young (not fully opened).


Amanita frostiana, with cap still reddish in the center and orange elsewhere, but the cap flakes have faded to white in the sun. Photo by Eric Smith

Amanita frostiana, with cap still reddish in the center and orange elsewhere, but the cap flakes have faded to white in the sun
Photo by Eric Smith

Because of these colors and their similar gracile stature, field guide authors got the idea at some point to present frostiana as a lookalike of A. flavoconia, with the major difference between the two being that frostiana has a striate cap while flavoconia does not. Since flavoconia gets striate when mature, this has led to lots and lots of flavoconia being mistakenly identified as frostiana — especially since flavoconia is a much, much more common mushroom.
Young A. frostiana, showing distinctly rimmed basal bulb and cap that is striate even at this early stage of life Photo by Eric Smith

Young A. frostiana, showing distinctly rimmed basal bulb and cap that is striate even at this early stage of life
Photo by Eric Smith

Frostiana has a bulb with a real rim on it, while flavoconia’s stem just sort of ends in a knob; and frostiana‘s cap is striate even when quite young. The definitive difference for people without a lab is that since flavoconia is in subgenus Lepidella, it has amyloid spores, while frostiana’s are inamyloid.
A. frostiana in old age, with its cap faded to yellow and the universal veil flakes faded to whit.e Photo by Eric Smith

A. frostiana in old age, with its cap faded to yellow and the universal veil flakes faded to white
Photo by Eric Smith

Amanita gemmata sensu auct. Amer.

Group of "Amanita gemmata" Photo by Tim Sage

Group of “Amanita gemmata
Photo by Tim Sage

The east has the good North American name russuloides to use for its myriad of small, pale-capped booted Amanitas. Not so the west coast, which has to make due with the European name Amanita gemmata. Note that in contrast to both the European A. gemmata and the east coast A. russuloides, the west coast “gemmata” has a substantial and durable ring. It is also often brown in a very definite way that no one would ever call yellow, even though this name matches up with a yellow-capped European species concept.
A typical west coast "gemmata", with brownish cap and substantial ring Photo by Tim Sage

A typical west coast “gemmata“, with brownish cap and substantial ring
Photo by Tim Sage

At present, there is no good study of how well the west coast gemmatas match up with the European ones, or even how many west coast species there are. But if you’re finding a small, pale booted Amanita west of the Rockies, this is the only available name for it.
"Amanita gemmata" button Photo by Ron Pastorino

Amanita gemmata” button
Photo by Ron Pastorino

Amanita multisquamosa

A group of A. multisquamosa, showing how they darken to brown at the center. Photo by Steve Russell

A group of A. multisquamosa, showing how they darken to brown at the center.
Photo by Stephen Russell

The other northeastern panther besides velatipes is A. multisquamosa. It is also sometimes listed as a variety of A. pantherina, or under the name cothurnata. The cap is up to 4½” across and has the same sort of creamy color as in velatipes, but shades to dark brown in the center. Its ring sometimes gets pulled up in the same way as velatipes. If you find something whose colors fit multisquamosa but is small and has no ring, you probably have Amanita albocreata (see its tab on this page).
The buttons of A. multisquamosa have more of the dark brown on the cap. Photo by Eric Smith

The buttons of A. multisquamosa have more of the dark brown on them.
Photo by Eric Smith

In age, A. multisquamosa can fade to a quite pale color all over. Photo by Steve Russell.

Conversely, in age A. multisquamosa can fade to a quite pale color all over.
Photo by Stephen Russell

Amanita pantherina

Young American panther, as found in the Pacific Northwest. Photo by Leon Shernoff

Young American panther, as found in the Pacific Northwest
Photo by Leon Shernoff

The only North American panther(s) with the classic dark brown cap in maturity are limited to the west coast. It doesn’t have a widely agreed-on name at this point, having gone under A. pantherinoides and A. ameripantherina. At this point, the most diplomatic designation is probably A. pantherina sensu auct Amer. (“in the sense used by American authors”).


The American panther, as found in the Pacific Northwest Photo by Leon Shernoff

The American panther
Photo by Leon Shernoff

It is the only booted Amanita in North America whose cap is a solid dark brown (under the white universal veil flakes) at maturity. Note that it is quite small, as opposed to the large, dark brown panthers of Europe (or the large but pale ones of the northeast).

Amanita russuloides

Amanita russuloides: pale capped and quite small Photo by Eric Smith

Amanita russuloides: pale capped and quite small
Photo by Eric Smith

Of our smaller eastern booted Amanitas, A. russuloides is usually only an inch or so across and a light yellow, sometimes shading to cream or tan. The ring is either absent or very fragile and soon disappearing, which helps distinguish it from (for instance) a tiny velatipes. There are undoubtedly at least a few species in the east matching this concept; but for the moment, this is the only name available for them.

Amanita velatipes

Amanita velatipes -- not how the ring has been pulled up by the edge of the cap. Photo by Pam Kaminski

Amanita velatipes — note how the ring has been pulled up by the edge of the cap. These are very small ones.
Photo by Pam Kaminski

Young and old A. velatipes Photo by Eric Smith

Young and old A. velatipes
Photo by Eric Smith

Our largest Amanita in this group is A. velatipes, also known as A. pantherina var. velatipes. It is usually 3-6” across, but sometimes up to 7½”, and a yellowish or brownish cream color. The ring often gets pulled upward at the edges by the expanding cap, and it stays like that instead of falling back down again. It seems to be limited to the northeast.