Murder and Mayhem

Most of us don’t know the half of what’s going on in our gardens. In her latest blogpost Ann Mackay ends a paragraph with “Just shows how much murder and mayhem is going on among the beasties that live in our gardens!” and this is true. Murder and mayhem may also originate from plants and other surprising sources.

Let’s consider the lovely red-and-white toadstools which we love to see in autumn.


Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita.

In New Zealand we’re well into autumn and I’ve posted occasional photos of the toadstools which some of you have particularly enjoyed. When they’re young they look cute don’t they?

They grow bigger.

Sometimes it’s a battle. Stuff in the way.

Heave ho!

Finally the toadstool stands tall with a large round red-orange cap.

I held the camera low and took a shot ‘blind’. I didn’t know how it’d turn out.

Turned out to be a murder scene!


These can be bad news for people too. Best not to mess with them.

~from Te Ara Encylopedia of New Zealand

Fly agaric and magic mushrooms

Two other types of toxic mushroom are fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), and several species of magic mushroom (Psilocybe species). Both types contain hallucinogenic chemicals, and some people deliberately risk the toxic effects to achieve a psychedelic high.

Fly agaric poison may cause severe stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Magic mushroom poisoning is unlikely to be fatal, but small, brown magic mushrooms are easily mistaken for other toxic species such as Clitocybe, Entoloma and Cortinarius.


Text and photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2021)
All the photos were taken at Maple Glen garden 04 April 21

17 thoughts on “Murder and Mayhem

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  1. Amanita muscaria is a beauty of a poisonous ‘shroom. Good thing red is a warning in nature. As far as that next to last image, it gives new meaning to the “blind” photographer.

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  2. In Iowa, we used to hunt morels in spring, but now I stick to the grocery store for the treat (not that morels show up there). I did try something that looked like a tiny wild strawberry once, in California, and when my heart rate went up immediately and substantially, that put an end to that. I’ll pluck a dewberry in the wild, or a wild plum, but that’s about the end of it. A forager, I’m not!

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      1. Morels are wonderful. All they need is to be dredged in flour with a little salt and pepper, then given a quick sautรฉ in butter. They have a light, woodsy taste that’s so appealing.

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  3. I’ve only sampled a couple types of edible mushrooms, after I searched through many illustrations and photos, and didn’t find any possibly poisonous lookalike. Then I tried a bite and waited a bit. I’m happy with the shitakes, porcinis, etc. I can find in the store. The magic varieties I’ll leave for the thrill-seekers.

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    1. I’m thankful there’s not too many thrill-seekers who seek magic through magic mushrooms. On the whole, the pretty toadstools get left alone for us to enjoy seeing. Some of the toadstool caps I photographed had been eaten by something though (photos yet to be posted). Wee creatures with a taste for magic?

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  4. Thanks for the mention, Liz! ๐Ÿ™‚ We were taught to be very careful around mushrooms and toadstools as kids, and to be able to tell the difference with the edible ones. We used to go out as a family for walks on the hill behind our house and pick field mushrooms for tea. They even grew in the garden once!

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