I found this little beauty in a shrubbery triangle between the sidewalk and an apartment building on Capitol Hill. Amanita muscaria is considered THE Quintessential toadstool (and I honestly thought that this must have been a ceramic one as it was so perfect); I have to admit I was hoping to see a little gnome hanging out somewhere close by...
In the science realm: the mushroom has been used for centuries by shamans, and are known for their hallucinogenic properties. This from BBC: "The Sami have a custom of feeding fly agaric to their deer and collecting the urine to drink. The reindeer's digestive system metabolises the more poisonous components of the toadstool, leaving urine with the hallucinogenic and psychotropic elements of the fungus intact. Drinking the urine gives a 'high' similar to taking LSD. Under the hallucinatory effects of the drink, the Sami thought their reindeer were flying through space, looking down on the world. The reindeers' liking for the toadstool hallucinogens are such that they, in turn, have been known to eat the snow on which intoxicated humans have urinated, creating a reciprocating cycle."
I am intrigued with the Aminita/Shaman/Santa connection, and the discovery of the science behind the myth! For those interested, check out Santa Claus is a Mushroom! I would also like to recommend When Santa Was a Shaman; both are guaranteed to spice up your holiday conversations with unusual historical and cultural facts (& perfect with Dr. Byrne's Eggnog).
P.S. and about that red nose...