Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is certainly a looker, check out the Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces) that I found on 7/11/2023. Also known as Strubbelkopfröhrling in German, this mushroom has a distinct, wooly appearance that you won’t mistake for anything else. In the northeast these mushrooms used to all be Strobilomyces strobilaceus, but now DNA sequencing is suggesting there are a couple of different species in the region. We won’t delve too deep in the taxonomy nitty gritty because it’ll always be more enjoyable to use “Old Man of the Woods” (regardless of whether you speak English or German).
Strobilomyces flesh stains a deep red when you cut it - a feature that creates a stark contrast with the black and white wooly cap and stipe. The red fades to brown and then black after a handful of minutes. The mushroom is also edible and makes for a tasty summer treat. The specimen featured in the photos smelled a bit like a portabello you’d get in the store and had a lightly earthy taste when raw.
On top of their edibility, there are also a couple of studies that suggest Strobilomyces might possess potential medicinal benefits. A study from China found that hexane extracts of S. floccopus slowed telomerase (a marker for cancer) while a different study from the Czech Republic found that an extract of the same species possessed free-radical neutralizing properties (References 2 and 3 respectively). There needs to be a lot more research, but hey not a bad start for this handsome bolete.
The fungus forms a mycorrhizal relationship with hardwood trees, predominantly oaks. The tree will send sugars made with photosynthesis down through the roots where the fungus is wrapped around the root hairs (ectomycorrhizal) in exchange for nutrients and water the fungus finds in the soil. Strobilomyces can be found on every continent besides Antarctica (poor Antarctica, always the odd one out). The mushrooms pop up mid-summer through early fall (July through September) in the northeast and the entire northern hemisphere.
The Strobilomyces we have in the northeast can allegedly be distinguished by the texture of the scales on their cap. The species S. confusus has “smaller, more erect scales on the cap” (Michael Kuo, Reference 4) in comparison to the larger, downier scales of S. strobilaceus. The most certain way to identify Strobilomyces is through their spores, a few of which are described in more detail at the interestingly named JungleDragon.com. For what it’s worth, I don’t know how reliable any of that is because I didn’t take a look at the spores… I popped that sucker on the cutting board instead ;)
Walks (copy and pasted from last week) free and welcome to all ages,
This Saturday, 7/22 at 10 AM: Putnam Valley Town Park in Putnam Valley, NY. This is through the town’s CCE (Commission for the Conservation of the Environment - a mouthful) which I help out with. Meet at the Pavillion.
This Sunday, 7/23 at 10 AM: Fahnestock State Park in the lot at the intersection of Dennytown Road and Sunken Mine Road. This is with the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association which is my first walk with the group.
Next Sunday, 7/30 at 10 AM: at Manitou Point Preserve. Accessible by the Metro North Hudson Line if you are in NYC, too. This is the preserve I work on and the walk is with the New York Mycological Society which will be really fun.
Remember to wear sneakers (or even hiking boots), bring water, look at the weather, all that jazz. Mycofest is coming up the first weekend of August and hopefully I’ll see some of you there.
Remember: a lot of rain is better than no rain,
2) Xu B, Li C, Sung C. Telomerase inhibitory effects of medicinal mushrooms and lichens, and their anticancer activity. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2014;16(1):17-28. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v16.i1.20. PMID: 24940901.
3) Macáková K, Opletal L, Polásek M, Samková V, Jahodár L. Free-radical scavenging activity of some European boletales. Nat Prod Commun. 2009 Feb;4(2):261-4. PMID: 19370935.
4) Kuo, M. (2015, January). Strobilomyces confusus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/strobilomyces_ confusus.html