Strictly speaking Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria, does not belong in a botanical blog. Fungi are closer to animals than plants. However, its Christmas folklore surely merits its inclusion in this Advent blog? There is a second justification. Fly Agaric mushrooms are prominent in Christmas decorations and displays – some are even wooden.
Sceptics will say that Reindeer are not aerodynamically designed to fly. Neither should bumblebees, but they do. Could it be that Reindeer have found a way to fly without their hooves leaving the ground? The Sami, inhabitants of Lapland and expert herdsmen of Reindeer, know that Santa’s helpers are partial to Fly Agaric. They can be coaxed to follow them using a trail of the fungi.
This tale is unfortunately not for children’s ears. Fly Agaric is toxic. The variability in effect on different people means that it should always be treated as deadly poisonous. Red-nosed Rudolph and his friends have an addiction to this hallucinogenic mushroom. It seems that Reindeer may fly despite their lack of aerodynamics. Under the influence of Fly Agaric, a person may think that they have taken a giant leap when they have merely cleared a small obstacle. Reindeer think they can fly…
Fly Agaric commonly features in Christmas decorations and fairy tales. Victorians liked to show the mushroom as a good luck symbol on their Christmas cards. The scarlet and white colouring appeals as appropriately Christmassy. I have discovered quite a variety of Fly Agaric Christmas decorations. It seems that Alice in Wonderland shares the Reindeer’s secret too.
If want to check on the progress of Santa and his Reindeer around the world, see Norad’s Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve:
There’s even a Norad Santa Tracker app!
All above gallery photos: © Karen Andrews
References and Further Reading
- Furci, Giuliana (2021): The earth’s secret miracle worker is not a plant or an animal: it’s fungi. The Guardian. Opinion. 11 November 2021.
- Phillips, Roger (2006): Mushrooms. Macmillan, London.
- Woodland Trust (2022): Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria).
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.