Species: subvelutipes (group – see Science Notes)
- Species 2: austrinus (This may be an independent southern species – it’s listed as such in online sources – but it doesn’t appear in North American Boletes and the best description I’ve found is “B. subvelutipes with purple hairs/tufts on the stem instead of yellow or red.” Expect “austrinus” to be revived as one of the species names for this group once a broad DNA study has been completed to tell us how many species there are. We are folding the names together until then.
Common Name: “Red Mouth Bolete”
Tells: Red/brown/orange pores instantly stain blue, as does the bright yellow flesh. Blue-staining red/yellow stem has no netting, and may have velvety hairs at the base.
Other Information: Found under hardwoods and conifers alike. Flesh has sometimes been reported as tasting a bit acidic, but that is not a reliable characteristic and may actually indicate one of the as-yet-unnamed subspecies (see Science Notes). The hairs at the stem base (which look more like velvet than hairs) are supposed to be an identifying characteristic to distinguish from the lookalike species, but it too has been considered unreliable by many field experts and is now up in the air along with everything else because we know this is a “group” rather than a single species. Specimens showing the velvety hairs typically have a yellow fuzz when young, which quickly turns dark red.
Edibility: The traditional instruction in America was clear: “Avoid the red-pored blue-stainers like this one because they are known sick makers.” The traditional instruction was clear: “Avoid this mushroom because it is a known sick maker.” That came under question beginning in the 2010’s as DNA evidence proved that these mushrooms are quite distinct from the Rubroboletus and Suillellus genera that contain the true “Satans Boletes”. The close relatives of these species (see the Science Notes) are not only edible, but good. Indeed the all-but-lookalike European mushroom now known as Sutorius luridiformis (f/k/a Boletus discolor) has been greedily sought forever as the choice “Scarletina.” Your editor ate and enjoyed his finds throughout 2016 with no ill effects. Your mileage may vary. For site purposes it is being promoted to “iffy” as a reflection of the ongoing debate, but with the proviso that all the old lore would disagree.
Science Notes: The species was originally described in 1889 by the legendary mycologist Charles Horton Peck. After 1889 the description slowly morphed until it really came to mean, “That common red-pored, blue-staining, non-reticulated mushroom in the East.” In other words, it was reliably identified by genuine experts with such a broad brush that it was sure to be either (a) a single species with extraordinary morphological variation, or (b) a series of similar looking mushrooms that all go by the same name depending on where you are. Recent DNA testing has pretty much confirmed option “b”. The exceptions were a series of parallel names such as discolor and luridiformis that actually refer to lookalike European species. So the bottom line here is this: the mushroom people call subvelutipes is actually a cluster of species that could be as many as 10-15 across, there is no known way to divide them up by field characteristics, and thus you will have to be content with calling your find part of that “group” until a broad DNA study gets done to break things up and allow the experts to go back and look for patterns. Bonus Problem: Peck’s original type specimen (the “holotype”) still exists, but the DNA has degraded to the point where it won’t yield usable results. There isn’t even a genetic baseline to compare to! Efforts are underway to find a replacement type specimen (an “epitype”) that can be recognized as the new exemplar.
- NH4OH (Ammonia): Cap skin turns mahogany-red. Blue-stained cap flesh turns rusty orange.
- KOH: Cap skin turns mahogany-red. Blue-stained cap flesh turns rusty orange.
- FeSO4 (Iron Salts): Cap skin turns grayish- to dark olive-green. Blue-stained cap flesh turns yellow orange.