Instant Bluey When Bruised

Western Bitter Bolete (Caloboletus rubripes) / Credit: the author

Stumbling across some random mushroom amid autumn is something I have been waiting for for a long time. Happy to see new colourful and different texture caps popping up on wet soil. It is hard to describe what precisely this species was, but I am confident I have seen it before.

At the time, I didn’t think too deeply. I was busting to discharge waste from my body in the Scout’s toilet, expecting to find enough toilet paper. It is always a worry when you have number 2 away from home.

If you ask me what I would do whether toilet paper wasn’t available at the crime scene, I would probably opt for primitive measures, such as hand wash or undies choice. These aren’t easy options, but I would’ve not found any other alternative for getting the job done otherwise.

Either way, I did well, and the excrement went down smooth if you are wondering (if you are not, many apologies). As soon as I left the smelly cubicle, I headed to where the mushroom was. I was intrigued because we haven’t had any shooting up since summer. The pale-yellow to dark-brown cap, slightly bruised with a solid bright yellow margin, gave away as I got to the showy cap. I thought about the species it might be for one second, so I decided to grab a stick and rub it.

Bingo. The dark to pale cap flesh blues instantly. Flipping over the mushy, I bruised the pores and again blues immediately. No doubt I was facing a Western Bitter Bolete (Caloboletus rubripes or Boletus rubripes). And yes, they are inedible with a horrible bitter taste, in case you buzz.

But the question still remains: what on earth this fungus is doing here in Adelaide, Australia, far away from Western California, where they are native?

A question that I bet a majority of mycologists keep asking themselves. As an amateur mycologist myself and getting stung by tedious study at the moment, I think I know the answer: spore travelling. Spores can survive all sorts of weather conditions, abiotic factors, physical and chemical obstacles etc. They are the ultimate reproductive microscopic machines capable of covering massive distances.

Credit: the author

Would you say they travelled 13,183 km over water only propelled by wind or some avian animal? Unlikely so (there is always a possibility, though). Yet, I believe humans are responsible for this dispersal. God knows how it happened, but this species is present in our soil now, firm and robust. Good or bad isn’t such a thing to grasp, and I believe it is for the good since this species are fruiting bodies of mycorrhizal connections.

In the news, articles, books, etc., you have probably seen that mycorrhizal fungi are those responsible for connecting tree roots to assist in growing, health, and communication. Yes, you aren’t wrong, but I suppose it is much more than that.

The fact this fruiting has popped up makes me grasp what roots are up to of different tree species surrounding this area. For your information, in a radius of at least 10 metres, we have Candlebark trees (Eucalyptus rubida), English oak (Quercus robur), Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), Silver wattle (Acacia dealbata), Stringybarks (Eucalyptus obliqua) and many others.

Take the latter as an inspiration; this is very amazing indeed. “Ok, you naturalist. Who is the bolete connected to?” Well, thanks for asking, but I am no magician to tell you exactly. I do think oaks have ectomycorrhizal connections with certain species of fungi, including boletes.

Credit: the author

Whether rubripes is one of them, I don’t know for sure. According to some textbooks, some Caloboletus or Boletus have mycorrhizal connections with hardwoods, most likely oaks and hemlocks. Most of this fungus’ species usually grow gregariously during summer and fall.

I wish I could have the answer for this specific one, but I cannot assume that different species will be the same because it is from the same genus. At this stage, we only have to keep that as a challenge for later articles. I will keep you posted.

Thank you for reading!

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Tiago Miranda

Tiago Miranda

Naturalist | Arborist | Lecturer | Climber