For those who may occasionally wonder how England’s Queen Elizabeth gets her energy and vitality, the answer may have been found in some mushrooms found growing at Buckingham Palace.
English broadcaster Alan Tichmarsh was filming a tv special on the grounds of Buckingham Palace recently, when he made an interesting discovery. Tichmarsh, who hosts a gardening show called “Ground Force,” on British network ITV, discovered that Her Majesty’s gardens contain a number of mushrooms of the variety Amanita Muscaria, also known as “fly agaric.” In some quarters these are known as “magic mushrooms.” Yes, it seems that the residence of the British royal family has a garden that is filled with hallucinogenic toadstools.
British newspaper, The Independent, says that Tichmarsh was walking the grounds at the palace, recording a tv show about the queen’s garden, when he and ecology expert Mick Crawley came across the fungi. Tichmarsh asks Crawley if the brightly colored red mushrooms with white spots are edible. Crawley says,
That depends what you mean. It’s eaten in some cultures for its hallucinogenic effects. But it also makes people who eat it very sick. The old-fashioned thing to do was feed it to the village idiot, then drink his urine because you get all the high without any of the sickness.
Magic mushrooms are not the safest way to get high.
ITV says that the psychoactive properties of the mushrooms have been known for centuries. Fly agaric is a common species that is important to the growth of many trees, and provides food for flies, as well as a breeding ground for beetles. The fungi almost certainly grew in the palace garden naturally, rather than being cultivated.
The mushrooms are also a part of popular culture. They were depicted in Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. They can also be found in Walt Disney’s classic film, Fantasia. And parents? Those little red and white toad stools that Luigi and Mario hop around on in the classic video game? Fly agaric.
The active ingredients in fly agaric are the chemicals muscimol and ibotenic acid. They cause hallucinations, drowsiness, and euphoria, among other effects. But before you rush out to look for these mushrooms, you should also be aware: consuming them runs the risk of poisoning, and even death.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman told ITV, “For the avoidance of doubt, fungi from the garden are not used in the palace kitchens.” But Queen Elizabeth is 88 years old, and seems to be in the best of condition. How do we know for sure what she might be doing when the gardener isn’t looking?
Image courtesy Tu Nguyen