In October of 2016, I stepped out into my back yard and found it carpeted with medium-sized brown mushrooms. Apparently, I had nothing better to do that day than attempt to identify these boring nondescript mushrooms, so I sat down with a field guide and managed to key them out to Inocybe rimosa. This was a surprising result; most of the boring brown mushrooms that pop up in yards are saprobic, but Inocybe is a mycorrhizal genus. Since I. rimosa is mycorrhizal, there is only a very limited area in my yard that it can grow. This made me wonder, “Will it grow in the same place next year?” There was only one way to answer that question: keep track of where mushrooms appear in my yard. I logged all 227 I. rimosa mushrooms and waited eagerly for 2017, when I would map all the mycorrhizal mushrooms that appeared.
mushrooms with a bolete morphology
The most readily observable features of Gyroporus castaneus are its brown cap and small size. As any mushroom hunter knows, mushrooms with this combination of features are very hard to identify… unless your mushroom is a bolete. Only a handful of boletes are small when fully grown and most of those have a reddish cap. G. castaneus – commonly called the “Chestnut Bolete” because of its chestnut brown colors – is easy to identify thanks to its small size, light brown colors, and brittle hollow stipe. Once you’ve found a small brownish bolete, the classic test to identify it as the Chestnut Bolete is gently squeezing the stipe, which should feel hollow.
Boletinellus merulioides is an odd mushroom, both in appearance and ecology. The Ash Tree Bolete can be readily identified by its tube surface – which is only a few millimeters thick and looks more like a network of ridges – and by the fact that it fruits under only ash trees. B. merulioides appears under ash because it has a unique symbiotic relationship with a pest of ash trees: the Leafcurl Ash Aphid.
So, is it an agaric or a bolete? At first glance, the answer seems obvious: it clearly has gills and therefore must be an agaric. However, if you spend enough time around mushrooms you might get a kind of uncanny valley feeling about this mushroom; its coloration, its stature, the way its cap looks somewhat puffy, the way the cap cracks as it dries out, and other subtleties just don’t look quite right for an agaric. When you ignore the gills, the mushroom looks for all the world like a bolete! Phylloporus rhodoxanthus, commonly called “the Gilled Bolete,” is actually closely related to the boletes and evolved gills independently of the true agaric lineages.
Often called the “Slippery Jack,” Suillus luteus is a fall bolete notable for its extremely slimy cap. Although you might think this texture is unsuitable for the table, the Slippery Jack is actually eaten fairly regularly. People who do eat this mushroom must make sure to peel off the upper surface of the cap. This is done for two reasons: the slimy layer does not have a very good texture and contains toxins that may cause some gastrointestinal distress.
Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Boletinellus merulioides is an odd mushroom, both in appearance and ecology. The Ash Tree Bolete can be readily identified by its pore surface – which is only a few millimeters thick and looks more like a network of ridges – and by the fact that it fruits only under ash trees. merulioides appears under ash because it has a unique symbiotic relationship with a pest of ash trees: the Leafcurl Ash Aphid.
If you need a mushroom centerpiece for your Halloween party, then this is it. This large mushroom has a bulbous, bright red, reticulated base that easily invokes demonic fires (hence its common and scientific names). As a bonus, Satan’s Bolete has a fetid odor – quite fitting, don’t you think? Unfortunately, this mushroom is rather rare.
Noting what decorations a bolete has on its stem can be very helpful in identifying that bolete. One type of decoration you may find on a bolete’s stipe is reticulation. Reticulation is a net-like pattern of ridges that extend partially or all the way down the stipe. These ridges are actually an extension of the pore surface, much like decurrent gills in agarics. The reticulum does produce spores, but is not as efficient at discharging spores because it is oriented parallel to the ground. Heimioporus betula is hands-down the best example of reticulation in any bolote.
This bolete is easily distinguished by the prominent tufts of black “hair” that cover the otherwise greyish cap and stipe. Despite the old man imagery, floccopus is probably one of the most beautiful mushrooms. It at least deserves to be counted among the best dressed mushrooms due to its showy scales. The scales are the most striking feature of the Old Man of the Woods. They are soft, black, and wooly, which makes them stand out from the whitish to grayish pileus. The wooly fibers are long and often hang over the edge of the convex pileus, giving the mushroom an unkempt appearance. On top of that, the cap’s margin often sports the remnants of a whitish to grayish partial veil. The stipe is similarly covered with dense, black fibers, which obscure the whitish to grayish color of the stipe surface. When you flip the mushroom over, you will notice...
The bolete morphology is one of two morphologies characterized by a hymenium (spore-bearing surface) covered with pores. Although boletes and polypores share this characteristic, the similarities end there. In fact, they look different enough for them to be commonly referred to by to different names. Boletes always share the following characteristics: the stipe (stalk) is central, the hymenium is on the underside of and is distinct from the pileus (cap), the pore surface easily separates from the pileus, the pore tubes are relatively long, and the flesh is fleshy to tough. From above, boletes tend to look a lot like agarics. However, bolete caps are often cracked or eaten away, making it possible for experienced mushroom hunters to tell boletes and agarics apart without picking them up. Most boletes are mycorrhizal with trees, so boletes are usually found growing on the ground around specific trees. Polypores never share all of...