Good evening friends, and happy Presidents' Day,
This week's mushroom is Tylopilus badiceps, commonly known as the beveled-cap bolete. This mushroom was found in the ramble on 9/27/2021. It was in a wooded area under an oak by the cave - the very cave which my former coworker Jerry is spearheading a coalition to reopen. As is the case with some of our mushrooms, we would need to use DNA sequencing to firmly confirm the identification of this mushroom. There are several Tylopilus species that this mushroom could be, but I'll detail the identification process for T. badiceps below.
It's moderately easy to identify a bolete down to the genus Tylopilus. Tylopilus mushrooms range in coloring from reddish brown to purple on the cap and stipe, have white to pinkish pore surfaces, and grow mycorrhizally with trees - particularly oaks. Identifying a Tylopilus mushroom to the specific species, however, is a much tougher task. Taste - several species are quite bitter - and the ornamentation/coloring on the stipe are important for further identification.
The distinguishing characteristic of this mushroom was that it had a non-bitter, neutral flavor. The maroon coloring on the cap and stipe were important. The lack of reticulation - a cobweb-like design - on the stipe and the light brown bruising on the pore surface were also noteworthy.
From what I've read, T. badiceps seems to be a species complex - several different species grouped under one name. Non-bitter tasting Tylopilus mushrooms that don't have a unique identifying characteristic seem to adopt the T. badiceps name. It happens to be the last species on Michael Kuo's Tylopilus taxonomic key, so if you go through a couple dozen taxonomic questions without reaching a species the road dead ends into T. badiceps. One of the supposedly distinct characteristics of T. badiceps is a "beveled edge" on the margin of the cap, but Kuo notes that this is only prominent in around half of Badiceps specimens.
A similar species is T. ferrugineus, but it tends to be more brown in color - absent of any purple - and is often found in grassy areas rather than woodlands. To add to the confusion, though, these mushrooms might be the same species. Tylopilus indecisus is also a similar species but has distinct reticulation on the stipe. If the mushroom tasted bitter it could've been T. felleus or one of the "bitter boletes".
A good amount of internet sleuthing, research if you will, goes in to the identification process. iNaturalist is an important tool that lets us see which mushrooms are growing in which parts of the continent/world. For NYC specific mushrooms, the New York Mycological Society's combined checklist of every mushroom they've found across the city is an incredible resource. Whittling it down even further to Central Park specific mushrooms, Gary Lincoff's Central Park Mushrooms page is fun and informative.
T. badiceps is mycorrhizal with oak trees. It is found exclusively in eastern North America and fruits in the summer. One peculiar note is that this mushroom was found in late September, so technically early fall, but it's reasonable to think the warmer NYC temps combined with the tremendous rain we had in 2021 allow this mushroom to grow later into the year. It's also fun to think how the mushrooms are connected to all the oak saplings in the picture above through T. badiceps' mycelium. The oaks produce sugars through photosynthesis which they trade with the fungus for nutrients and water. That's something very pleasant to think about before we go to bed, or something sweet to wake up to for those reading this Tuesday morning.
It's starting to feel, and sound, like spring,
1) Kuo, M. (2016, April). Tylopilus badiceps. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/tylopilus_badiceps.html
2) Kuo, M. (2016, September). The genus Tylopilus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/tylopilus.html