- Genus 2: Suillellus
- Genus 3: Boletus
Species: subvelutipes (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 should have velvety hairs at the base.
Other Information: Found under hemlock and occasionally another conifer; the lookalike oak-lover is genetically distinct. 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 also unreliable. Specimens showing the velvety hairs typically have a yellow fuzz when young, which quickly turns dark red.
Edibility: Your author finds the oak-loving lookalikes delicious, as did Gary Lincoff (who also liked these). Between us and many others they have now been eaten them regularly for the past several years, with no reported consequences. With that said, Scarletinas remain on the “Iffy” list rather than “Choice” because the traditional instruction in America was so clear: “Avoid the red-pored blue-stainers like this one unless you want to get sick.” That myth has now been destroyed, but we do not have the many decades of practical experience required to be 100% sure about things like individual sensitivities and whether my European sources are right about the need to cook them extra thoroughly. So I guess the bottom line would be this: “Choice, with cautions and maybe reservations.”
Science Notes: The species was originally described in 1889 by the legendary mycologist Charles Horton Peck. The velvety hairs at the base – which many modern foragers have despaired of finding – was actually the basis for Peck’s decision to declare it a species. Sub- = barely; velut- =velvety; and -pes = foot. 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, genuine experts used such a broad brush that everyone knew the DNA revolution would show it to be a group of similar looking mushrooms that would need to be sorted out. And sure enough, the DNA testing has confirmed just. This site chooses to limit the name “subvelutipes” to the hemlock-lover because (a) that is a distinct genetic species, (b) your author participated in an effort to find an “epitype” to replace Peck’s original “holotype” because that sample no longer has usable DNA, (c) the general location where we found it was dominated by hemlock, and (d) the specific finds were under a grove of hemlock. The velvety foot is very important for a firm ID, subject to environmental factors that will often hide or destroy such a delicate feature.
The parallel, oak-loving red mouths appear in the books under a series European names such as discolor and luridiformis, along with poorly described American names like subluridellus. Unpublished DNA work suggests 4-5 separate species in that category that will ultimately require “holding names” until the scientific method plays out
Finally, there is an undescribed species found in the Southwest mountains that is either subvelutipes or a good lookalike. We are waiting for DNA results before expanding the published geographic range to include those finds.
- 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.