November 21, 2022
Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is the booted Suillus (Suillus cothurnatus). I was visiting my parents down in Florida this past week and found these mushrooms in the Indrio Savannah Preserve. I’d been to this preserve a couple times in the past and the mushrooms had always been pretty sparse, but the recent tropical storm provided a lot of rain and subsequently a lot fungal diversity to explore – some of which we’ll dig into today.
This is the first time we’ve looked at a mushroom in the genus Suillus. Suillus are a type of bolete mushroom – they have the toadstool shape with cap and stipe (stem), but have spongy pores instead of gills. Suillus are known for their slippery, slimy caps and their mycorrhizal association with pine trees. They also have conspicuous partial veils – the white membrane below that stretches from the margin of the cap to the stipe and protects the pores during the mushroom’s development.
I initially thought this was the “Slippery jill” (S. salmonicolor), but the mushroom we have here appears to be an identical southern species according to Michael Kuo’s mushroomexpert.com. Coincidentally, or perhaps there’s something greater at play here, these two Suillus species are the two most recent mushrooms he’s documented on his site and he created their pages the same day I found this mushroom – this past Friday.
The difference between the two is in the trees with which they form a mycorrhizal relationship. The slippery jill (S. salmonicolor) associates with pines that we find up north – specifically pitch pine, virginia pine, and jack pine, and is therefore a more northern species. Suillus cothurnatus, associates with southern pines like the loblolly pine, the longleaf pine, and the slash pine. When trying to identify mushrooms you should take pictures of the surrounding environment, and fortunately I had the wherewithal to take a picture of the nearby pines which I later identified as slash pine (Pinus elliottii). The final caveat in distinguishing the two, and perhaps most interesting of all, is that it’s not definitive they are even separate species to begin with. As tends to be the case with mushrooms in the ages of DNA sequencing.
To add to the confusion neither species reportedly bruises brown, but the specimens I handled definitely did – check out the picture above vs the picture below. The spores are brown but not enough time had past to discolor the pores that substantially, let alone in that particular pattern. Even the yellow flesh in the stipes would turn brown when I cut them.
These mushrooms were fruiting by the tens, if not hundreds, so after conducting a little field research (iNaturalist and google) I figured out they were edible and we brought some home. Sometimes people will peel off the viscid, slippery cap of Suillus mushrooms but these weren’t particularly slimy since it hadn’t rained in a few days. Folks will also scrape off the pore layer of Suillus since that also tends to be slimy. I found that to be much easier said then done and I scraped the pores off two mushrooms before slicing the rest and throwing them in the pan. The slimy pore layer wasn’t too thick, as you can see below, and wasn’t noticeable when consumed.
We prepared them with a dry fry (sautéing them alone in the pan without oil to let the water cook out) before following with a “wet fry” which consists of pouring water back into the pan – just enough to cover them. We then cooked them back down to where there wasn’t any water in the pan and seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin before serving over fonio – an African grain. Did I have the foresight to take pictures of the pine trees but forget to take pictures of the final meal? Of course. Oh well.
Both the slippery jill and booted Suillus have a salmon-like color (hence salmonicolor) that is most pronounced toward the base of the mushroom. Cothurnus in Ancient Greek is a type of boot and references the color at the base of our booted Suillus.
One last interesting note was how the mushroom aged. Below is a picture of an older mushroom I found. You can see how the cap dehydrates and pulls the pore layer up allowing for more spore dispersal. Additionally, the yellow pores are now brown – tinted by the brown spores. What I thought was most interesting was the black and white speckling on the stipe. Those “glandular dots” are another characteristic of Suillus but in several species, like this one, aren’t noticeable until the mushroom is old and dried. It almost appears as some of the stipe had broken away or dissolved to reveal those black dots, but I’m not sure if that’s the case. Nonetheless, a fascinating mushroom and it’s always fun when we get a new genus on the board.
Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hopefully mushrooms get incorporated into your holiday meal.
1) Kuo, M. (2022, November). Suillus cothurnatus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/suillus_cothurnatus.html
2) Kuo, M. (2022, November). Suillus salmonicolor. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/suillus_salmonicolor.html