Derivation of "Agaric"

Clifford Brian Odom odom at
Thu Mar 28 12:36:05 EST 1996

Stephen R. Berlant (Berlant at wrote:
: In article <odomDotwou.JHI at>,
:    odom at (Clifford Brian Odom) wrote:
: >Stephen P. Bentivenga (invam at WVNVM.WVNET.EDU) wrote:
: >: In response to the recent speculation on the derivation of "fly-agaric" 
: ....
: >
: ><SNIP>
: >
: >: Stephen R. Berlant wrote:
: >: >To the contrary, it always seemed to me that "fly-agaric" must have been 
: >: >derived from our word "agar" for a growth medium"; because, the mushrooms 
: >: >odor, resembling that of rotting flesh, caused flies to lay their eggs on 
: it, 
: >: >as evidenced by popular reports that maggots appear on the mushroom soon 
: after 
: >: >it starts to decay.
: >: >
: >: >I was wondering if anybody had any recent info that supported or refute 
: either 
: >: >of these positions.
: >: >
: >: >My thanks in advance.
: >: >
: >: >Stephen R. Berlant 

: >Technically, "agar" does not refer to growth media, it is simply an 
: >additive used to solidify nutrient solutions. Agar is specifically used 
: >for this task because it cannot be metabolized (provide nutrition) by 
: >most organisms.

: Imho, this technical definition of agar should probably be viewed as a 
: refinement of the originally broader definition of the Malay etymon of "agar", 
: "agar-agar", which referred to "a gelatinous material derived from certain 
: marine algae". These algae are those that form seaweeds like kelp, rockweed, 
: or gulfweed, which Polynesians and others have used as the "growth medium" we 
: refer to as "fertilizer" from time immemorial, precisely because they can be 
: and are metabolized by many organisms. 

: Regards,

: Steve Berlant

There are parts of seaweed that can be metablized, and seaweed was used 
extensively as a fertilizer in pre-famine Ireland. But, the specific 
compound agar is not metabolized, especially not after polymerization which 
would only occur after boiling.


 C. Brian Odom, Ph.D.|Bio. Dept.|Alderson-Broaddus College| Philippi, WV 26416
 304.457.6277(O) | 304.457.1700(A-B C.) | 304.457.6239(FAX) | 304.457.5915 (H)
-----------------------------odom at

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