Your Majesty, are those shrooms in your backyard?
Her Royal HIGHNESS, indeed.
Today we are going to throwback to December 2014, when a certain red-and-white-headed toadstool with potent hallucinogenic properties was spotted in the Queen’s private gardens in Buckingham Palace.
The beloved TV presenter and professional gardener, Sir Alan Titchmarsh, was filming for a Christmas special when he tripped upon the magic mushroom:
“That was a surprise but it shows just how varied the species are.”
Sir Titchmarsh was, of course, referring to the fly agaric mushroom – a species of magic mushroom that is actually quite common. But it’s still a surprise to find it growing unchecked in the Queen’s private garden…
Just One of Many for Her Majesty
Amanita muscaria, or the fly agaric mushroom, is very toxic to humans (although religions in Siberia, as well as the ancient Celtic druids, have used it for its hallucinogens). But unlike “true” magic mushrooms with psilocybin, the main psychoactive compound in fly agaric is muscimol.
And unlike psilocybin mushrooms, fly agaric mushrooms can cause vomiting and low blood pressure if eaten. Trippy? Yes. Safe? Nope!
Fly agaric often grows near evergreen trees, or under deciduous trees, which can be found in the Queen’s vast garden. This is why the shrooms probably grew naturally, rather than being purposely planted.
In an official statement, Buckingham Palace officials said:
“There are several hundred fungi species in the palace garden, including a small number of naturally occurring fly agaric mushrooms. As the programme explains, they are beneficial to trees, increasing their ability to take in nutrients.”
The Queen’s fungi help provide food for flies, which play a huge part in the overall food chain. Wild shrooms also act as breeding sites for beetles.
Shrooms for Shamans in Siberia
The fly agaric mushroom shares a deep history with Christmas tradition. In Siberia, village shamans fed the mushroom to their reindeer (whose kidneys and liver can flush out the poison). They would then plop down to drink the reindeer’s urine to space out in the snow. Reindeer Tek, anyone?
And as part of their Winter Solstice ritual, the shamans also gave fly agaric as gifts to local families, tossing them into chimneys of village huts. All this while dressed like the Amanita muscaria. Hmm… sounds familiar?
Sir Titchmarsh could not have stumbled on these mushrooms at a better season. It’s a forbidden slice of Christmas history.
Fly Agaric Today
In the UK, where Buckingham Palace looms large, magic mushrooms (or at least the “proper” ones) remain illegal.
“From 18 July 2005 both fresh and “prepared” (that is, dried, cooked or made into a tea) psilocybin mushrooms became illegal in the United Kingdom; fresh mushrooms had previously been widely available, even in shops, but section 21…made fresh psychedelic mushrooms (“fungi containing psilocybin”), a Class A drug.”
Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, fly agaric mushrooms won’t get you arrested… probably because you’d get poisoned first. So don’t even risk it! They may be pretty but they will kill you, unless perhaps you’re a Siberian shaman.
So what do you think? Is the queen actually an amateur mycologist? Have you always suspected that Santa was a mushroom?
Share your thoughts down below!