A Forager’s Guide to Amanita Vaginatas (Grisette Mushroom)

A Forager’s Guide To Amanita Vaginatas (Grisette Mushroom)
Not only are grisette mushrooms completely edible, but they're also extremely popular as a culinary delight. The ectomycorrhizal fungus is highly regarded in North America, where it is a treat found chiefly in deciduous forests and sometimes mixed woodland.

Summer to fall is the best season to forage Amanita vaginatas. You may know this wild mushroom by its common name, the grisette mushroom.

The first part of the name refers to the scientific name Amanita, which originates from the Greek word Amanita, meaning “of the Amanus” and referring to a range of mountains in Turkey. 

If you want to know more about this wild mushroom, including its best uses and foraging tips, continue reading.

What Do Grisettes Look Like?

It can be tricky to find the Amanita vaginata, known by the synonym ‘grisette’, because it refers to all of the ringless Amanita species (Amanita sect. Vaginatas).

Because you can eat all species of Grisettes, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for.

Amanita vaginata
Amanita vaginata

The species-specific determination from their macroscopic features makes it impossible to tell the species apart. Only a few characteristics separate them all. But luckily, there are a few features that you can use to recognize one of the grisettes from the others.

As a whole, the Amanitaceae family, or species, comes in two sizes. The grisettes come in medium or large agarics (mushrooms with a distinct stem, gills, and cap).

The cap is mostly smooth and lacks any volval remains for all varieties except a few of the other species in the group—for example, the snakeskin grisette sports grey patches.

grisette mushroom
Amanita vaginata/grisette mushroom, Source: mushroomobserver.org

You can also differentiate grisettes from other edible mushrooms because the edge of the cap appears striated. The gills are generally white or cream-colored, and the spore print is white. You’ll also notice that the spores are spherical and smooth, about 8-12µm (micrometer) in diameter.

You won’t find a ring around the base of the stem, but you will find a snakeskin pattern, with the stems terminating in a sack-like volva structure. You also know that you’ve got a grisette when you’ve got a sac-like volva left in the soil once you’ve plucked it.

Amanita vaginatas
Amanita vaginata, source: Archenzo (Wikipedia user)

Do Amanitas Have a Ring Around the Stalk?

Experienced foragers will recognize that the stem is usually white and smooth, adorned with small flakes or a snake-like pattern. It does not, however, possess a ring around its stem.

Are There Any Grisette Mushroom Poisonous Lookalikes?

Yes, this is where you need to be careful. The edible mushroom grisette is perfectly fine to eat, but there are several poisonous lookalikes.

Chewing on the wrong ‘button’ could mean the end, literally.

1. The Deathcap

For example, you must avoid the deathcap (Amanita phalloides). As you can guess by the name, this is a disastrously poisonous mushroom that can lead to loss of life.

The poison amanitin hides in deathcaps and other young ‘button’ specimens that people often mistake for edible mushrooms.

Check our video on the 7 most poisonous mushrooms growing in the US (mushroom details and ingestion symptoms included)!

Unfortunately, these little Amanita vaginata lookalikes cause 90% of deaths by fungus ingestion a year. Only half a cap or less is enough to kill someone.

It would help if you were always careful when looking for any edible fungi from the Agaricales order or any other toxic family member.

If you think you’ve found a grisette because the species does not have a skirt, beware that the skirt may be missing. You need to do further checks.

Amanita phalloides, Deathcap
Amanita phalloides, deathcap, source: mushroomobserver.org

2. The Tawny Grisette

Even though the tawny grisette is relatively easy to identify, you should know the tawny grisette requires cooking before consumption.

As mentioned above, the tawny grisette (Amanita fulva) looks similar to the A. vaginata; however, it sports a tan or orange color. The tawny grisette should never be eaten raw; always cook this form of grisette to ensure it’s edible.

Amanita fulva, tawny grisette, Source: inaturalist.org/observations/88403893

Foraging a Grisette Mushroom

It grows symbiotically with neighboring coniferous and deciduous trees.

The tawny grisette also grows in association with a mixed culture of varying trees as a mycorrhizal fungus.

When you find a baby grisette mushroom, you’ll find it growing in an egg-like sac called a universal veil, or volva.

Amanita Vaginatas Ecology Benefits

The Amanita vaginata is full of ecological effects and benefits. As a mycorrhizas plant, this Amanita species benefits the surrounding plant roots.

It does so by growing in association with plant roots, which means its existence is based on consuming sugars from other plants. Doing so exchanges nutrients and moisture from the soil by its fungal strands.

As part of the fungi branch of the taxon, the grisette acts as an extension to the root system, increasing the absorptive area of a plant.

Oak, chestnut, spruce, pine, alder, and birch are often mycorrhizal with the Amanita vaginata. Still, you may also find this species of wild mushrooms on undisturbed ground and unkempt lawns in North America.

Remember that before searching for edible mushrooms, you may want to obtain a field guide or guidebook on foraging and edible wild plants.

A quick Wikipedia search can also help to point you in the right direction. Always keep yourself safe when foraging.


Getting into the great, wet outdoors in search of edible plants, herbs, fruits and fungi is one of Sarah’s favorite outdoor pursuits. She thinks there’s nothing better than combining her passion for hiking with the start of the foraging season. Sarah’s definitely not afraid of a little rain and dirt, it’s all part of the fun.

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