Contact Us | Harvard University Herbaria | HOLLIS

Library Collections | Library Hours | Archives Policies | Material Duplication Information | Digital Resources

The naming of Amanita phalloides


One of the earliest representations of Amanita phalloides. It is identified as Fungus phalloides.

Sébastien Vaillant (1669-1722)
Botanique Parisiense, Ou, Denombrement Par Ordre Alphabetique Des Plantes Qui Se Trouvant Aux Environs De Paris ...
Leide : J. & H. verbeek, 1727.

Table XIV, figure 5 - Fungus phalloides

Vaillant was born at Vigny, Val d'Oise. He studied medicine at Pontoise, and then moved to Paris to practice as a surgeon, where he studied botany at the Jardin des Plantes under Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.

Vaillant was appointed to the staff of the Jardin des Plantes in 1702, becoming sub-demonstrator of plants in 1708. He took many botanical excursions notably along the coasts of Normandy and Brittany. Apart from his fieldwork he concentrated on careful dissections of plants. His premature death prevented the publication of some of his manuscripts, notably his inaugural lecture in which he presented irrefutable evidence on the existence of plant sexuality. He was the first in France to promote the theory of sexuality of plants. When he was near death he gave his notes and plates to Boerhaave for publication. In 1727 Boerhaave published Botanicon parisiense, the culmination of thirty-six years of Vaillant's botanical research. This theory on plant sexuality influenced Linnaeus who regarded Vaillant as one of the most important botanists.


Another early and important appearance of Amanita phalloides. Persoon classifies it as amanita but gives it the name Amanita viridis.

C. H. (Christiaan Hendrik) Persoon (1755-1837)
Tentamen Dispositionis Methodicae Fungorum In Classes,Ordines, Genera Et Familias. Cum Supplemento Adjecto.
Lipsiae, P.P. Wolf, 1797.

Amanita viridis Pers.

Christiaan Hendrik Persoon was born at Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 1762 and died in Paris on the 16th Nov. 1836, aged 74 years. Much about Persoon is lost in antiquity: he was thirteen years old when he left South Africa, never to return.

Persoon was left an orphan at an early age, sent to Germany, and afterwards settled in Paris. Persoon attended the University of Leyden and Gottingen and became a Doctor of Medicine. While in medical practice he devoted his spare time to botany and published several valuable textbooks on fungi. Persoon's Synopsis Methodica Fungorum (1801) is an epic work on fungal systematics. "We have always been a sincere admirer of the works of Persoon and considered him not only the 'Father of Mycology' but the greatest genius that ever worked on the subject" (C.G. Loyd, 1924).


The amanita is now called Agaricus phalloides.

Elias Magnus Fries (1794-1878)
Systema Mycologicum : Sistens Fungorum Ordines, Genera Et Species, Huc Usque Cognitas, Quas Ad Normam Methodi Naturalis Determinavit, Disposuit Atque.
Lundę : ex officina Berlingiana, 1821-32.

Agaricus phalloides Vaill. ex Fr.

Elias Fries was born 1794 in the village Femsjö in the western part of the province Småland in southern Sweden. According to Fries himself his great interest in fungi started when he as a twelve years old boy came across a magnificent specimen of Hericium coralloides. Already as a school-boy he knew between 300 and 400 species of fungi, to which he gave provisory names. He started his university studies in Lund in 1811 and obtained his doctor's degree there in the year of 1813.

Fries' most important work was Systema Mycologicum, issued in three volumes between 1821 and 1832. It has for a long time, together with Elenchus Fungorum from 1828, been the starting point for fungal names and today the names in it are sanctioned. In 1834 Fries was appointed professor in Uppsala and from then on his main interest was the Hymenomycetes.

Elias Fries is often referred to as The Father of Mycology.


The name Amanita phalloides appears for the first time in mycological literature.

Heinrich Friedrich Link (1767-1851)
Handbuch Zur Erkennung Der Nutzbarsten Und Am Häufigsten Vorkommenden Gewächse.
Berlin. 1829-1833.

Amanita phalloides (Vaill. ex Fr) Link

Heinrich Friedrich Link was born in the Parsonage House of the Church of St. Anne at Hildesheim. In 1786 he entered the University of Gottingen where he studied medicine with frequent deviations towards the natural sciences.

In 1792 Link was nominated for the position of Chair of Natural History and Chemistry at the University of Rostock. He remained there for twenty years and during his tenure published many botanical works.

In 1811 Link was asked to fill the Chair of Natural History at both Halle and Breslau, he chose Breslau. He remained there for 4 years and then was then appointed Professor of Botany at Berlin and Director of the university's botanic garden.

Link was one of the few German botanists in the early part of the present century who aimed at a general knowledge of plants, and combined anatomical and physiological enquiries with solid researches in systematic botany.

Back to Introduction


Images of Amanita phalloides


Amanita phalloides poisoning


The Death Cap in popular culture



Botany Libraries • Harvard University
22 Divinity Avenue • Cambridge, MA 02138
phone 617.495.2366 • fax 617.495.8654

Send comments, corrections, or updates to:
Last updated September 2011.
Copyright 2010 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

HUH | Arnold Arboretum | OEB | CBHL