Twelfth Issue, July 2003
Published about twice a year from Greenville, California
by Herman Brown 


As before, I have included dialogues between some of the members of the Mycological Society of San Francisco (, of which I am a member.  There is always lots of information shared by the members, and this issue treats two of those discussions: Should I eat Mushrooms Uncooked?, and Pinophilus or?, which is about the changing names for mushrooms.

As of July 16th, It looks like the Spring Season has about ended for mushrooms in this area, even though it seemed to last about a week longer than normal.  As was typical of most of the other areas, this season started with encouragement and then dropped to disappointment.  I and many others feel that it was the late snow followed by the unseasonably warm weather, that caused the light fruiting.  Most of the morels we found earlier this year were naturals, and the collection window for the Spring King Boletus was shorter  than normal for this year, even with the week-longer spring extension.

However, there were some good days, as you can see by my reports that follow. - Herman

Findings, May 18 to July 7  (top)

Sunday, May 18: Yesterday I received an email from a friend who lives in Chico, asking me if he and his wife could come up for a morel hunt with us. I enthusiastically said YES!.

On Sunday, Cecelia and I took them to some of the spots we hadn't checked two days ago (at 4400 ft., near Lake Almanor), and each of us found a few at all of the spots except the first and last.  The first spot was a last-year's logging operation, and we saw no morels.  Later, we also took them to another spot higher up (around 6000 ft.), but there was still too much snow.

We also found 3 of the delicious, almond-scented, yellow-staining Agaricus, the Agaricus albolutescens, for which I later traded a few morels for the Agaricus that they had found.  Our last stop was an area that Cecelia and I had just checked two days ago, and we still found a good batch there.

The extra eyes really helped to locate the patches.

Almost all were found in full sun.  I expect that, as the rest of the ground warms up, they will start appearing more in the shadier areas.

The weather was sunny, the company was great, and I think we all had a pleasant Sunday.

Monday, May 19: Took a walk around some property located above town at 4400 ft to check the area where the owners had done some thinning of the trees last year.  First I checked their green lawns to see if the Marasmius oreades (Fairy Ring Mushroom) or Blewits, had come up yet.

Verpa conica
Verpa conica (about 1" in diameter)

No Marasmius yet, and the few large Blewits I did find were already too old, but as I got out of the truck, I saw several tiny sun-dried morels in the gravel driveway.  As I walked around the yard, I found several more morels, in all states of conditions - dried, fresh, and pretty old.  Some older ones were at the edge of a marsh and very soggy.  As I walked along, I found a bunch of Verpa conica (Thimble Morel), and because I hadn't seen them for years, I had to get help from the experts with the ID.  These had smoother caps than I remember, and the stalks seemed much too short.

After collecting a small bagful of the morels, I checked the area where the thinning had been done, but found none.

I am beginning to think that the "naturals" come up sooner than the ones found in disturbed areas.

Wednesday, May 21: Today I briefly went back to an area where I had previously found a few Verpa Conica, as well as a small bag of morels.  This time I concentrated mainly on finding the Verpas, as I was determined to get a taste.  I actually found enough, plus a few more morels that I missed Monday, these being in the center of a short gravel road.

All the Verpas were found in a grassy area at 4400 ft. under various conifers, and seemed to favor the more moist areas.

When I got home, I cleaned the Verpas, cooked them in a little butter with a dash of salt and pepper, and found the taste and texture quite good.  After the taste, I added 2 eggs and made a very enjoyable batch of scrambled eggs.

I feel that they are worth collecting for the table if you can find enough of them.  I found about a dozen, most all without much of a stalk.

Thursday, May 22: I had hopefully predicted that the late spring rains would bring out a good crop of morels, and I think I was right!

Today, we collected 4 pounds of morels in less than 4 hours, mostly pretty large and fresh.  We also found one tennis ball-sized Gyromitra gigas/montana and one Agaricus albolutescens, both two of my favorites for edibility.

These were all found at about 4400 ft., in fairly clear areas that got lots of sun and that were undisturbed.  We started looking in an area about which we had just received a tip and looked in the disturbed areas there first. The first ones we  found were in a sunny location next, to but separated from, the disturbed areas.  Once we concentrated on searching over similar areas, we found lots of them.  For the next few stops, we looked in some areas where we had checked about a week ago and again found lots of pretty large ones.

I guess we will be busy rechecking the rest of the old spots!

If you want to see two pictures of today's find, go to:

morels1.jpg (one morel near Cecelia's foot)
morels2.jpg (a shirt-full)

Friday, May 23: Today we decided to recheck some of the disturbed areas at 4400 ft., in hope that the morels were finally coming out there.  They were, and we found over 3 lbs in 4 hours.

Sunday, May 25: Today we went to check out the Storre fire area, to see if all the extra spring rain had helped bring out any morels.  We approached the area from Lake Almanor, and went into a part of the fire zone where all the trees were gone.

The ground was much too dry and void of any duff, so we went back towards the edge of the fire zone.  There we concentrated on being near creeks, and finally found a few morels.

We decided then to go back to 4400 ft., to some of the areas we had checked earlier and where there had been some logging more than a year ago.  Here we did pretty good, finding morels in the same spots we had checked previously only a few days ago.

Today's total was only 3 lbs, but as always, it was an enjoyable way to spend the morning and early afternoon, walking in the forest, having a picnic lunch by the lake, and even finding some morels.

We now know to check the disturbed areas more carefully, and there are lots of them pretty close to the Lake.

Thursday, June 5: I took a friend with me to check out a few of my boletus spots to see if these boletes had come up yet, and we found several, most being 3" in diameter.

We also found several large, bright yellow amanitas starting to emerge, with a thick white patch on the top, sack-like vulva, and white annulus, which I finally decided as an A. calyptrata.

Tuesday, June 10: Today we went up towards the town called Mineral, to check out a campground which usually yields a couple of mushrooms. This time  we were mainly looking to see if the Boletus pinophilus were out yet.

We found no boletes, but did find a few fairly large Calvatia sculpta and a small batch of Cortinarius magnivelatus, one of the corts with the enclosed gills.  I figure the campground will be much better to check in about a week.

I was supposed to meet with a couple from Fresno later that day, so I could take them to a couple of my Boletus pinophilus  spots at 4400 ft.  I had just been picking boletes at the same spots 2 days ago, but it seemed like they were growing so fast that we would find at least a few.

We all actually did pretty good in the short time we searched, as it was close to 7 pm when we started.  The couple was thrilled to find any at all and were planning on consuming them tonight, along with one of the Calvatia sculpta that I gave them.

A few of the boletes we saw were pretty small and already beginning to dry up, so it appears that the moisture level in some areas is dropping pretty fast.

I'll probably wait until Thursday morning to check the same spots again. Hopefully some of the areas will still be moist enough.

Thursday, June 12: Today I decided again to go back to my Spring King Boletus (Boletus rex-veris) spot, to see if anything had come up in two days.

I found about a dozen.  But some were too wormy to take, and most were softer than I like to use for cooking so I dried them all.  I gave a few to the local pharmacist for him to taste.

I started out with my finding one small but mature one, so I felt this would be it for the season.  But as I looked around more carefully, I saw more mounds, some that were where I had already traveled in my first pass.  The last one was right next to the truck, and I'm surprised I didn't trip over it the first time I passed through.

Under a large elongated mound, I also found some very nice Yellow Coral Mushrooms (Ramaria rasilispora), but left those behind.

So my advice then is, if you have any favorite spots where you have picked the Spring Kings before, at around 4400 ft., I'd check, and recheck, them daily if you can, as soon as you can, as they are getting softer day by day..  The higher elevations still might fruit a bit later or be fresher than those I found today, as what that I have been finding are almost about 2 weeks behind schedule.  In fact, Yuba Pass still might get a late crop, and we may even check it out ourselves if we have the chance.

If you want to see pictures of a before-and-after Spring King Boletus mound, go to moundbefore.jpg and moundafter.jpg.

If you want to see the last large one (turned out to be too wormy) I found by the truck, go to bycar.jpg

They all look best if you can set your browser for full screen view, and they are only about 56k each in size (10-11 seconds download time with a 56kbps modem).

The beer bottle was for sizing and was just some of the litter that I collected in my basket that day. The collecting basket isn't the one I usually take either.  It was much too small so I had to empty it before I did the last pass through.

Sunday, June 15: This afternoon, I got a call from a friend who lives at the other end of Indian Valley, to tell me that the big puffballs were out again in her back yard.

I went to her yard to look and she showed me three medium-sized Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantia).  This was the first time I had ever seen them whole, and I brought all of them home with me.

A picture of two at the edge of her yard can be seen at images_2003/puffball.jpg.

The can next to one is a 6-oz can of orange juice for size comparison. The one in the basket looks like two that grew together.  There was one more close by. She told me that they usually get to the size of a soccer ball.

The other one looks like two of them growing together.

Big mistake bringing them all home!  These were far too many to cook. Next time she calls me I will probably only pick one.

I had rechecked my Spring Boletus patch earlier that day, and now think that the season is over for that area, which is around 4400 ft.  The moisture level had dropped drastically in the last few warm days, so I expect there will be no more fruitings.

Wednesday, June 18: Because my local supply of Spring King Boletes seemed to have stopped appearing at 4400 ft., we went up to a campground above Chester, which is at about 6000 ft., as this spot usually produces some when they stop appearing at 4400 ft.

As soon as we got into the campground, Cecelia found four.  One was medium-sized and whole, and two of the other larger ones were nibbled upon, probably by a deer.  None showed any signs of bug infestation.  The ground where she found them was still quite moist, resulting in some very hard-to-clean mushrooms.

We found no others in the campground, but will probably check there again in a few days.

So, I would venture to guess that our spots at 6000 ft., and other areas at a similar elevation, could still yield some too, as all I have been finding around this area are over a week later than usual.

Monday, July 7: Today I took a friend up to about 5100 ft., to see if the Boletus appendiculatus (correction, the B. abieticola) had come out yet.

We didn't find any appendiculatus (correction, the B. abieticola), but did find a few Spring Kings, some Boletus regius, and some Yellow Coral Mushrooms.

I was quite surprised at finding the Spring Kings because it was so far into the season.  I was also surprised NOT to find any of the appendiculatus.  I guess this season is really later than normal.

Two of the Spring Kings were quite large, but one was too far gone to collect and the other was mostly consumed by another creature. Only one of the B. regius was fit to eat, and it and the one good Spring King, were probably the firmest I have ever found.

But there was more than enough for a good taste. 

So, there might still be a some Spring Kings out there at the higher and more moist areas.

Should I eat Mushrooms Uncooked? (top)

The answer is no and yes.....

I had asked Steven Trudell (University of WA) this question when he was visiting Dennis Desjardin's, Spring Fungi of the Sierra Nevada class at Yuba Pass this spring, because of something that had been told to me by Paul Kroeger when we were at the Breitenbush Mushroom Gathering last year.  Steven confirmed what Paul had said, telling me that raw mushrooms did contain some amounts of carcinogens along with an indigestible (until cooked) substance found in crunchy insects, so I looked up the topic on the Internet and found the following article:

The following came from the Puget Sound Mycological Society's online publication of Spore Prints, issue #338, from January 1998:

Jan Lindgren. MushRumors, Oregon Mycological. Society., March – April 1997

Most of us think nothing of eating a few sliced, raw, “store bought” mushrooms in salads, on hors d’oeuvre trays, or when preparing them for the frying pan. Usually the amount eaten is so small that we don’t notice any unpleasant symptoms, but it is not a good idea to eat any mushroom raw. I know the commercial growers will laugh and scoff at this statement and some of you will say you can eat lots of them with no problem, but researchers have shown that even Agaricus bisporus, the “store bought” mushroom, contains agaritine which metabolizes into a hydrazine.

Many hydrazines are known to be strong carcinogens and can be found in a lot of edible mushrooms. Cooking destroys some or all of the hydrazines, but the steam given off during cooking has been known to make some cooks ill. Besides this fact, the structural material or cell walls in mushrooms is made of chitin, and humans don’t have the ability to digest this derivative of cellulose. The body can do several things to this undigested chitin. It can expel it by vomiting or send it the other way with diarrhea. Small amounts may pass through the gut with other food and go unnoticed, or it may stay in the gut where bacteria will work on it causing bloating, gas, and other discomfort. Cooking does not destroy chitin but may ease its effect. Once in the habit of eating A. bisporus raw, people think they can eat any mushroom without thorough cooking, and this is where they may experience some very unpleasant symptoms. In February, a case recorded at the Oregon Poison Center told of a woman who ate home cultivated, raw Pleurotus ostreatus with her lunch and experienced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. While this may not be a serious health problem it could have been avoided. A better job of educating people about wild collected and cultivated mushrooms is necessary.

We assume that chefs at good hotels and restaurants know not to serve raw mushrooms, but this isn’t the case. You may recall that on June 8, 1991, about 70 people were made ill at a large banquet in Vancouver, B.C., because they were served raw morels and other raw mushrooms in a salad.

The spring verpas, morels, and brain-like mushrooms (Gyromitra) are notorious for their toxicity in the raw state and, for some people, in the cooked state. Please be careful and remember that drying is not a substitute for cooking and that folding sliced mushrooms into an omelet just before serving or pouring hot vinegar and spices over raw mushrooms is not efficient heating or cooking. The best rule to follow is cook all mushrooms thoroughly before eating and eat them in moderation.

A good reference for more information about mushrooms and health is Mushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas by Denis R. Benjamin of Seattle.

Later, the same subject came up in the Mycological Society of San Francisco (MSSF) email group, and here is most of that dialog below, plus some final comments sent to me by Joe Doughtery.

From David Rust: 

I did an Internet search and came up with this from a UC-Davis site:

Risk and Our Use of Pesticides, item #2)

"Most hydrazines that have been tested are carcinogens and/or mutagens. Large amounts of carcinogenic hydrazines are present in edible mushrooms. The widely eaten False Morel contains 11 hydrazines, three of which are known carcinogens. One of these hydrazines, N-methyl-N-formyl hydrazine is present at a concentration of 50 mg per 100 gm of mushroom and causes lung tumors in mice at the extremely low dietary level of 20 g per mouse per day.

"The most common commercial mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, contains about 300 mg of agaritine per 100 gm of mushroom as well as smaller amounts of other related carcinogens. Agaritine is not appreciably destroyed by cooking and when eaten, is distributed in tissues where it is converted to a diazonium derivative which is a very potent carcinogen (a single dose of 400 g/gm of body weight gives 30% of treated mice stomach tumors)."

From Debbie Viess:

Don't sweat the conspiracy theories and just cook all your damn mushrooms. Yes, even the "harmless" white button mushrooms contain toxins when raw; Paul Stamets discussed their toxicity in a cover article in "Mushroom, the Journal..." a few years back. I never liked raw button mushrooms anyway, and would always pick them out of a salad when they would appear. Different strokes. And yeah, I know, some people will eat raw, thinly sliced porcini in a salad, and even (horrors) raw amanitas of the coccora variety, but frankly I'm not crazy about them either, despite my amanita proclivities. Of course, none of these mushrooms are as toxic as Gyromitra esculenta, from which the toxins can be reduced but never completely removed. Let the eater beware...


From Peter Werner:

As far as I know, many if not most varieties of mushrooms contain hydrazines that are present when raw, but volatilize when cooked. (I'm not sure if drying also volatilizes these compounds.) Additionally, there are quite a few varieties that contain hemolytic proteins that denature once cooked - Amanita rubescens is one of these and presumably A. novinupta may be similar.

Whether the hydrazines present in raw mushrooms really increase one's carcinogen load enough to be concerned about is an open question - there's simply been no epidemiological studies one way or the other addressing the question.


From Larry Stickney:

Thank you, Peter, for the most sensible and reasonable response to all this needlessly alarming talk about the dangers of eating uncooked mushrooms, wild or cultivated. This noise has been going around for a great many years, and while every individual has the right to his or her own eating practices, there is simply no credible intellectual evidence that raw mushrooms generally endanger human health.

As for rodents, I have seen many wild fungi that have been munched upon by any number of them. In the alpine Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite Park I have watched deer eat Amanita muscaria, not eating every one in sight, just chomping those which grew in the grassy spots as they encountered them where they were browsing at the time.

As for hydrazine, one needs to understand the chemistry of the compound before declaring all ingestion of the carpophores absolutely life threatening. Ignorance of that information breeds irrational fears in otherwise intelligent people whether they be peasant pickers or PhD.'s in mycology.

I hereby designate my eventual remains to science for the autopsilogical study of my tissues to determine the amount of mushroom related carcinogens locked up in them.

Larry Stickney

From Dave Bell:

Well, there's certainly a lot to think about here...

The one that gave me the most concern is this, which supplied the most numerical info:

>(from David Rust)
> I did an internet search and came up with this from a UC-Davis site:
> The most common commercial mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, contains
> about 300 mg of agaritine per 100 gm of mushroom as well as smaller
> amounts of other related carcinogens. Agaritine is not appreciably
> destroyed by cooking and when eaten, is distributed in tissues where
> it is converted to a diazonium derivative which is a very potent
> carcinogen (a single dose of 400 g/gm of body weight gives 30% of
> treated mice stomach tumors).

I had to exercise some lax brain areas, but (neglecting the conversion ratio of agaratine to the diazonium) I make that work out to (from David Rust's comment above):

"About 1 gram of A. bisporus per 7.5 grams of mouse weight gives 30% of the treated mice stomach tumors."

That sounds pretty scary, but I'd wager that most of us fall in the range of 50 to 100 kilograms body mass. An effective single dose at that rate would be between 14.7 and 29 POUNDS of raw A. bisporus! Now, I love mushrooms, and even enjoy raw or lightly cooked A.b, but somehow I don't think I ever have or will approach that dose...

What we don't know is the effect of long term consumption of smaller amounts, or the differences between mice and men.


From Larry Stickney:

Thank you, Dave Bell, for providing us with specific facts about the amount of poisons used in the experiments with mice to produce their health problems. As usual, the amounts are extremely high compared to body size and weight. It's a wonder the poor critters don't die on the spot. Obviously no human is in a position to endanger his health thusly. I hope this places a cap on this lively but highly ill-considered proposition that eating uncooked edible fungi is a danger to ones health. It may be only my own septuagenarian years which leave me no concern about cell accumulations. Just how long do cells live before they are worn out and removed and replaced anyway?

Larry Stickney

From Ron Pastorino:

> As far as I know, many if not most varieties of mushrooms
> contain hydrazines that are present when raw, but volatilize when
> cooked. (I'm not sure if drying also volatilizes these compounds.)

As far as methylhydrazine is concerned, drying should get rid of all of it, assuming one dries completely. Water boils at 212F while methyl hydrazine boils at 190F.

One should also consider how these mice studies are conducted. For example, in one study cited by Benjamin on Gyromitra, mice were fed raw mushrooms 3 out of 7 days for their entire life. They developed tumors, many benign, but their life span was not significantly reduced.

Dosage is the key to most anything in these type of studies. Many common foods contain chemicals that when isolated and fed to mice or other laboratory animals in large enough quantities will cause cancers. This becomes the basis for classifying any particular chemical as a carcinogen.

Now that we have one noble human volunteer for future studies, perhaps a few more will step forward....the Culinary Group should be a wonderful storehouse of potential scientific data waiting to be "dissected".

Ron Pastorino

From Paul Staments:


Good remarks. Note that the hydrazine in question is agaritine, and its immediate sub-derivatives, activated by enzymes in your gut, are the culprit compounds. Please see pgs. 221-223 in the 3rd edition (2000) of Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms. I passed this chapter to 6 mycologists prior to printing for fairness and accuracy, and they concurred it was on target. I still think it is right on.

Some notable points from my end of the court...

  1. Just as Ikekawa (1989) surveyed more than 100,000 people in Nagano Perfecture showing that Enoki mushroom consumption resulted in lower than normal cancer rates, leading to the discovery of flammulin, why is not there a survey of button mushroom farm employees to see if they more or less than the local cancer rates ? We all know that workers eat much more than the average consumer and if a benefit or danger is present, it would logically show in this population, all other factors being equal. I am sure the American Mushroom Institute would be eager to do such a study....
  2. Although I am generally opposed to GMO's, I think this is a good example that creating a non-agaritine strain of button mushrooms would be economically and ethically attractive. First one to do it, wins. This could be worth millions, and society may benefit. Agaricus bisporus does contain aromatase inhibitors, which is associated with decrease tumor growth in breast cancer development. If the agaritine issue was removed, we could have a medicinally powerful species.
  3. It is my understanding that agaritines are localized in the genus Agaricus, with our friend the Prince, Agaricus augustus,  having the most, although other hydrazines - as was mentioned - can be found in other genera, especially Gyromitra. There was one report, potentially a false positive, of a minor hit with shiitake.
  4. What I have read indicates that agaritines survived boiling in water, mild cooking, and air drying. These are more heat stable than hydrazines found in other mushrooms.

See my book for the references.

My 4 cents (sense).


From Joe Doughtery:

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful replies.  It is interesting that Agaricus has such high levels of a hydrazine derivative, I wasn't previously aware of this.

As with all studies of diet and its influence on carcinogenicity, there are so many  intermediate steps between a scary chemical structure and actual human carcinogenicity that it is awfully tough to detect a relationship even if there might be one.  Agaritine is not impressively carcinogenic in animal models or mutagenic in bacteria.  You could certainly find much more frightening info on, say, celery, basil or black pepper, none of which I plan to forswear.  From its structure, agaritine is unlikely to be much changed by heating, nor is volatile enough to be boiled off like methylhydrazine or gyromitrin.  It thus seems to me that the decision is to eat Agaricus or not, rather than to eat only the cooked version.  It is also possible that there are other potentially toxic components in mushrooms that are less well described.

It would seem that Paul has a point, it should be possible to breed Agaricus with an interrupted agaritin biosynthetic pathway.  I would imagine that this would be possible even without GMO techniques, although the GMO methods might be better targeted and more specific, particularly if the genes in the pathway have been cloned (possible but unlikely).

Does anyone know anything about hydrazines or other putative toxins in other genera?  Boletes, for instance?

Herman's points about chitin are of course well taken.  Moderation and cooking seem to be the two best approaches there.

Thanks again to everyone, very interesting stuff.


Joe Dougherty

From Kelly Ivors:

Hi Joe and others,

I worked on A. bisporus for my PhD work at Penn State. What you are proposing is really not an easy task, without lots of research dollars and time...breeding A. bisporus for an interrupted agaritine biosynthetic pathway without GMO techniques would not be worthwhile. Heck, breeding A. bisporus for any new trait is rather difficult. That's why all of the current strains on the commercial market are genetically similar. There was a genetic study done a few years ago which showed that most all commercial strains of A. bisporus were identical (and that most commercial companies 'borrow' each others strains). That's why you don't see much variation at the grocery store.  Here's why.

Does anyone know what a secondary homothallic species means?  A. bisporus is secondarily homothallic.  That's why its species name is 'bisporus' (means 2-spored').

Most basidiomycetes come with 4 basidiospores on the basidium.  On the lamellae of the mushroom, basidia produce spores that are shed and can germinate, thus completing the life cycle.  It is only in the basidia that the nuclei of opposite sex fuse in order to exchange nuclear material. After this, 2 nuclear divisions take place, resulting in 4 nuclei, each with a unique genetic make-up.  This process is called 'meiosis'.

Unlike in most basidiomycetes, those basidia in A. bisporus produce mostly 2 spores per basidium.  This phenomenon hampers breeding considerably.  The 2 spores on the basidium each have 2 nuclei within them. Hence, each spore of A. bisporus comes paired with compatible nuclei.  \This phenomenon is called secondary homothallism. Most spores on the 2-spored basidia receive 2 non-sister nuclei. This leads to the formation of mycelia containing nuclei with opposite mating types. These heterokaryons produce fruit bodies. Because of this internal fertilization, you can't breed this species without using rare A. bisporus strains from nature that predominantly produce 4-spored basidia. I think one of the strains they use for this is A. bisporus  var. burnetti, and this procedure has been patented. The reference for this explanation is: 

Sonnenberg, A. S. M. 2000
Genetics and Breeding of the Button Mushroom
Mushroom Journal 608:19-25

So, now you know why there isn't much variation in this commercial species. To my knowledge, They haven't been successful in breeding new strains of A. bisporus that are resistant to green mold (which would be the ideal strain to have), so why would you think they could do this for agaritine production?


From Mike Boom:

Very interesting discussions on agaritine here, made even more interesting because as I type this I'm munching on a raw Agaricus augustus, prince of agaritine bearers. I figure that nature limits my agaritine intake by limiting me to a finding only a few augustus a year (sob!).

The most disturbing part of the discussion thus far for me is Kelly's report that almost all strains of commercial A. bisporus are identical. This confirms my opinion of most commercial bisporus as the stereotypical hillbillies of the mushroom world: sickly inbred creatures devoid of taste. (Apologies in advance to any real hillbillies who might be insulted by comparison to button mushrooms.)

I have encountered wild A. bisporus only twice since I've been a mushroomer, and I've found them delicious. I hate to think that they're outnumbered probably well over a thousand to one by their sickly indoor cousins who threaten to overwhelm their wild strains with escaped spores carrying insipid commercial genes. Maybe what button mushroom geneticists should really be working on are strains that will self destruct once they hit the forest floor.

Time for another bite of augustus,

Mike Boom

From Lorrie Gallagher:

Today's food section in the Chronicle features carpaccio, and alternative variations of it, in lieu of raw beef. The cover photo is a salad of thinly sliced raw Portobello mushrooms & other ingredients. I'm not really tempted. I got over the habit of eating raw mushrooms years ago, though Mike Boom's lusty description of A. augustus is wonderful.


And this from: Dr. Weil, (via David Rust):

Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 1:00 AM
Subject: Good Morning From Dr. Weil -- The Mighty Mushroom
Tip: The Mighty Mushroom

Mushrooms are a big favorite of mine, for both medicinal and nutritional purposes. In general, I suggest the more exotic varieties of mushrooms that are becoming increasingly available in this country, instead of white or "button" mushrooms. These latter kinds can contain natural carcinogens, which are not present in other mushrooms.

If you are planning on eating mushrooms, try these two:

Maitake: This delicious Japanese mushroom has been shown to have anticancer, antiviral, and immune-system enhancing effects. It may also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar.

Shiitake: These meaty and flavorful mushrooms contain a substance called "eritadenine," which encourages body tissues to absorb and lower the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood.

For medicinal purposes, I recommend:

Cordyceps: A Chinese mushroom used as a tonic and restorative. For health maintenance, take it once or twice a week.

Reishi: Strictly a medicinal mushroom, reishi can improve immune function, reduce allergic responsiveness, help protect the liver, may inhibit the growth of some malignant tumors, and has significant anti-inflammatory effects. Follow the recommended dosage, and take every day for at least two months.

Again, from Joseph Doughtery:

I am a bit surprised that Andrew Weil would recommend Cordyceps.  This mushroom contains decent amounts of cordycepin, a nucleoside analog that looks pretty scary to me.  It will be pretty stable to cooking and so on, so this is another case of eating the mushroom or not.  "Health > maintenance" through eating particular exotic mushrooms is an idea that I find troubles my Western reductionist mind in any case, but that's just me, maybe.

Pinophilus or? (top)

The following dialog also came from the MSSF email group, after I had mentioned my finding some Boletus pinophilus on June 5th.  It exemplifies some of the frustration with both different common names used, as well as the changing scientific names, for mushrooms:

From David Campbell:

et all,

When we stopped calling the mountain Spring Kings "edulis", it helped to distinguish them from those other Kings we so enthusiastically cull in the autumn from their mountain or coastal habs.  However, it has been my understanding that Boletus pinophilus is a species known primarily from Europe that, while similar to our Spring Kings, probably does not grow in the western US.  Last I heard, the name "rex veris" had been proposed in taxonomy circles as a proper and distinct Spring King species moniker. Anybody have any idea what the current status of the royal name game might be?

In the meantime, I think the only accurate and generally agreed upon nomenclature would be the common name, as seems to be the case with so many species these days.

David (still grumpy about calling Shaggy Parasols "Chlorophyllum") Campbell

From me:

Hi David,

I'll ask Dr. Dennis Desjardin, as he uses that name in his Spring Fungi of the Sierra Nevada species list.  The Spring King Boletus here does seem very different from the coastal B. edulis to me, and much different from the B. edulis that sometimes comes out here locally in the fall. Maybe he has some insight, because one of his students was doing some research on the "edulis" complex a couple of years back.

The Sierra Spring King Boletus just might end up with its own distinct name eventually, well as the B. edulis that grows up here in the Northern Sierras.

Herman Brown

From Mike Wood:

When compared to the true European Boletus pinophilus, our spring Sierra porcini appears to be a distinct species. As far as I know, a new name has not yet been published for this species. Boletus rexverna ("spring king") would be a good name for it. B. "rexverna" is readily distinguished from our fall Boletus edulis (coastal or sierran) by it's reddish coloration (that quickly fades when exposed to sunlight), its tendency to often fruit underground and only show above ground at maturity, and its typical habit of growing in clusters.

>In the meantime, I think the only accurate and generally agreed upon
>nomenclature would be the common name, as seems to be the case with so many
>species these days.

Of course that is a fallacy. NO names are universal and unchangeable. The best name to use depends upon who are trying to communicate with. I encourage you to use whatever name best communicates the species to those you are addressing. If I tell you that I came back with a basket of "spring kings", you would know exactly what I mean. But if I told someone on the east coast that, they would have no idea what I meant.

--Mike Wood

From Mike Boom:

A campground host in the southern California Sierras once told me he like to pick "potato mushrooms." It took me a while to figure out he meant spring boletes, which look a bit like red potatoes, especially when they're underground and they're a light pink, as they often are. "Common name" is such a misnomer -- they're so often uncommon!

Mike Boom

From David Campbell:

Well, dear Mikes, 

I guess the potatoes, er, I mean the mushrooms remain the same, but the names have been changed to confuse the innocent.  Of course we have to agree on our terms, know our audience, in order to effectively communicate.

The first lesson I learned about the study of mushrooms, probably from Louis C.C. Krieger's "Mushroom Handbook", was the importance of learning the Latin names because common names were so given to colloquialism, etc.  Seems the jokes been on me, in so many instances.  Common names of commonly known mushrooms have generally remained unchanged over the course of my mushroom tenure, while many genus and species names have bitten the dust, sometimes more than once for the same mushroom.

I realize the taxonomic changes reflect dedicated mycologists efforts to better understand the mushroom universe, and we are privileged here in the MSSF and on this chat room to be apprised in a timely fashion of the latest developments.  It's just that back on planet earth, I find it comforting to know a potato mushroom is still a potato mushroom, by any name smelling so sweet.

David Campbell

From Mike Boom:

I agree completely. The problem with common names is not their stability, it's their distribution, especially with mushroom names. "Stumpers" in Montana mean oyster mushrooms but mean nothing here in the Bay Area. Likewise the extremely limited distribution of "potato mushrooms." The advantage of scientific names is that they're propagated world wide so that -- in theory -- you can use them everywhere as long as everyone keeps up to date.

As for stability, with the recent shift to gene sequencing to determine common fungal traits, it's almost guaranteed there are going to be some major changes in scientific names while common names remain much more stable. In recent history blewits, matsutake, and coccoli have all had much more stable common names than scientific names. Common names aren't immune, though. As an example, black chanterelles seem to have shifted to black trumpets recently.

As with all language, you use whatever works -- which in the Bay Area is a rich and confusing variety of somewhat stable common names and in-flux scientific names.

Mike Boom

From Debbie Viess:

And don't forget the textural differences between the "spring king" and edulis. The spring king is so firm, I call it the "jicama bolete".

Debbie Viess

From Alvaro Carvajal:

There, finally, a mushroom name that makes sense and than I can live with!

Alvaro Carvajal

And here was the reply I got (and forwarded to the group) from Dr. Dennis Desjardin:

Herman and David;

The current status of the Spring King bolete remains as it has for many is formally called the Spring King!  David Arora and G. Simonini (Italy) with the help of molecular systematist F. Camacho, are threatening to formally describe the Spring King as Boletus rexveris.....however, that formal description have not been made yet.  Until that is done, our morphological name for the taxon is B. pinophilus...still listed as such in my key.  I agree that it is distinct from the real European B. pinophilus (although the morphology really doesn't tell us that!), but until it is formally described as B. rexveris, it will remain the Spring King.  Hey, who really cares?  We all know it as the Spring King and we all know that it is distinct from the fall B. edulis and the real B. pinophilus, so what's the problem?  Just call it the Spring King or hell, call it porcini....that encompasses many taxa, and for the mycophagist, that's all that really matters.

Dennis D.

From David T. Bartolotta:

Rexveris is the most logical name, since it is VERY descriptive, and that's the whole point of naming things.  I've heard the hard, round, young boletes called "bocce ball mushrooms". Great name if you know what a bocce ball looks like. However, I lump many mushrooms in one category called "dinner".  It satisfies my needs.

David T. Bartolotta

From Ron Pastorino:

I can't imagine anybody in the civilized world not knowing what a bocce ball looks like. However, I've heard that up around French Camp way the B. pinophilus is referred to as the "petanque mushroom".  Leave it to a francophile to overstate the firmness  of the Spring King!

Ron Pastorino

And from me:

For an amateur like myself, it is sometimes frustrating to think you have finally learned a mushroom's name correctly and find out that it had been changed since the last publication of the book from which you learned the name.  The Snow Mushroom (or Snow bank False Morel, or Bull nose, or Walnut, in Demystified) was one of the mushrooms that I learned as Gyromitra gigas, and later found out that the species that grows in the U.S. has now been named the G. montana, to distinguish it from the European G. gigas.

And common names are confusing to me two, as the Pig's Ears, in Demystified, refers both to the Discina perlata, as well as the Gomphus clavatus. Sometimes, the common name is descriptive enough that it seems like it shouldn't change, like a local common name for one of the mushrooms that grows in Greenville, with the blood red latex and is seemingly very popular here with the more mature locals, is called the Sanguine, which compares pretty good to the previous scientific name, Lactarius sanguifluus, but which is now named the L. rubrilacteus.

So not only can we "discuss" the "correct" pronunciation of the scientific names, we can "discuss" the "correct" scientific names, as well as the "correct" common names.

It sure gives us fuel for interesting discussions, from which I hope we all gain something!

Herman Brown

Featured Mushroom, the Boletus regius (top)

I usually find a few of these Red-capped Butter Boletes each spring near the end of the season and occasionally into summer.  I find the taste kind of bland, and the texture softer, compared to the B. appendiculatus, for which it almost looks the same except for the red cap color.  They actually look much like the Spring King Bolete, except for the bluing nature of the pore surface and flesh.  All of these have reticulations (netting) on parts of the stalk.

For a direct link for this mushroom on the Mykoweb site, complete with pictures, go to: