I found this last July surveying forest ants in the Southern Appalachia. This deadly fungus was located in one of our burn plots. Amanita phalloides, more commonly known as the death cap causes more deaths around the world than any other mushroom. It is such a threat because it has a huge distribution forming mycorrhizal relationships with several tree species favoring broadleaf trees. The amatoxins and phallotoxins it produces causes painful liver failure within a few days.
Burn plots were my favorite areas to work in because I got to see the forests floor regenerate. Because humans put out most forest fires, natural fire regimes are non-existent. This natural process abruptly cycles nutrients and allows light to penetrate the forest floor, ultimately helping non-dominate species compete.
When many people see a robust fungus, they think that individual is doing great, but in reality, the individual can be rather stressed. This individuals plant host literally went up in flames a few weeks prior to this shot. There was no longer sugar flowing into the fungus from the tree. As a last resort, this individual formed a fruiting body to release billions of spores so it's genes have the possibility of transferring to the next generation. If it's lucky, spores from this mushroom will land by another compatible tree.