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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fungi Files: Mushrooms with Pores

Until I started looking carefully at the mushrooms in the yard, I thought that gills were a prerequisite part of mushroom anatomy. Quite a few of the ones around my house, however, had holes under the caps instead of gills. By doing a little research, I found out that there is, indeed, a second category of mushrooms with caps that distribute spores by way of tubes or pores instead of gills. I can be forgiven, though, for being unaware of this wrinkle in mushroom taxonomy and anatomy: Agariclaes, or gilled mushrooms, number some 13,000 species worldwide, while the order Boletales, which has been used to classify mushrooms with pores, contains closer to 1,300 species. In other words, there are ten times the number of gilled mushrooms than mushrooms with pores and, in fact, some of those in the Boletales order have recently been discovered to be improperly categorized and are different on a molecular level than the group of mushrooms informally known as "boletes." If you take a look around, though, you might realize that there are members of the boletes family lurking about, hiding their different method of spore distribution under their caps.

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Boletus edulis
Photo by Hans Hillewaert
As in my previous post, I have made the decision to forego identifying the mushrooms pictured here. While there are far fewer boletes than gilled mushrooms, there are still sufficient numbers in my neck of the woods to make identification--with the usual need to agree with the official guides on the definitions of cap colors and textures, the examination of specimens at all stages of maturity, sniff and taste tests, examination of flesh after various degrees of abuse, and of course the indispensable spore prints--not worth the effort. There seem to be two particular body types among boletes: those like the one pictured at left, with a thick, bulbous stalk and rounded, proportionally small cap, and the ones I found, which tend to have relatively slender stalks and flat caps. I'd like to note that all of the mushrooms shown here were photographed in my own yard, that they seem particularly popular with the local squirrels, and that they are listed below in no particular order.

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This orange species starts of quite rounded when it emerges from the ground...

…but becomes more irregular in shape as it ages. The oldest one in this grouping has developed quite the fancy frill in its old age. They seem to top out at about three inches in diameter.

I upended one of the mushrooms in this cluster so you can see the pores.

While slugs might occasionally dine on the backyard boletes...

…they seem to be particularly popular with the local rodents.

These ruddy individuals, also three inches in diameter, collect pine needs on their slightly tacky caps. I'm sure (or at least as sure as I can be without spore prints) these are Suillus lakei.

This bolete has a particularly lumpy, irregular, and visibly textured cap.

If my memory serves me correctly, the cap was roughly five inches across.

This variety was also fairly large, perhaps as much as six inches in diameter.

A second member of the family emerges under the overhang of a mature specimen.

The substantial caps offered shelter to other mushrooms, too.

They looked rather like stepping stones set out in the grass before succumbing, at last, not to rot but to the lawn mower.

This mushroom has pores and a nice umbo, the raised bump in the center of the cap. I'm not positive if it's an immature specimen of one our front lawn boletes (perhaps the one that follows?) or is a separate species.

We did get several varieties of large, tan boletes in our front lawn. This one matured to have a flat top, some six inches across, and upturned edges that reveal the pores.

The tubes or pores containing the mushroom's spores.

My dog gives the mushroom a curious sniff. She was unable to determine by smell why I found it a subject of such fascination.

You can also see a bit of her muzzle in the background as she investigates an overturned bolete in the backyard.

This buff-colored variety, four inches across at the widest point, are particularly popular with the squirrels...

…as can be seen by the well-gnawed underside of another one that had been plucked from the ground.

They stand on reddish, hollow stems.

The bruised flesh is reddish, too, as seen here in the gouge marks left by a squirrels's incisors.

Another backyard specimen has a flat top in a darker shade of brown and is about three inches across.

With age, the edges of this variety curl increasingly over the cap. 

And the final type: these dark brown/blackish boletes have a matte texture that looks almost velvety.

The mature caps are pitted both by nature and by animals bites.

A fly rests on the edge of exposed rosy-orange flesh.

The cap on the dark boletes are two and a half to three inches in diameter.

A Douglas-fir rises out of our front yard.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that all of the boletes I photographed were in my own yard. While I didn't canvas a particularly large area, I didn't spy any boletes in any of the other front yards in my neighborhood, in the front or back yards of the three houses where I've dog-sat during my mushroom photography phase, or in two wooded parks that I visited, and yet I've photographed as many as nine species (some of the orangish mushrooms might be variants of the same species) around my own home. Why I have boletes in my yard and other people do not probably has something to do with the big Douglas-fir in the middle of our front yard and a second Douglas-fir in the back. Apparently, some 1,000 species of mushrooms form mycorrhizal (mutually beneficial) relationships with Douglas-firs and boletes are among those number. (Most boletes, in fact, form mycorrhiza with a particular tree species or at least a particular type, like conifers versus hardwoods.) In fact, Suillus lakei is associated exclusively with Douglas-firs, and there are several of them currently growing in the beds near the trunk of the tree in the photo. While many of our neighbors have Douglas-firs in their backyards, we are one of the only houses to have one in the front. Boletes (and other mushrooms) may also like the fact that we have given up on trying to prevent moss from growing in the grass in the front and have ripped out the lawn entirely in the back, creating conditions that are slightly more forest-like than the traditional suburban yard. I'm sure if I went into the woods and looked long and hard, I'd find other boletes, but in the meantime, I'm mighty pleased to see so many right outside my door!

While this is hardly a comprehensive survey of members of the Boletales, I hope it will inspire a few people to go outside and peer under the caps of the local mushrooms to see if there are any pores lurking among all the gills.

Next up: assorted fungi with neither pores nor gills!

Also, if you missed my previous post on mushrooms with gills, you can find it here.


  1. love these, I love mushrooms/fungus too... hope to catch a fairy in a shot sometime....

  2. These are beautiful. I will check out your gill shots next. I find it intriguing that the squirrels seem to mark the mushrooms with their teeth. Do you think they eat them or are just 'sculpting.?

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos! I think there's a certain amount of "taste and reject" among the squirrels, but they really seemed to love that one type of bolete and occasionally messily dismember gilled mushrooms on the lawn.

  3. Oh, forgot to say I love the one with the fly the best as he looks quite content and the background is faded just right :-)