July 18, 2022
Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is Tapinella atrotomentosa, commonly known as the velvet-footed pax or the velvet rollrim. This was the only fresh mushroom I found this past week, growing from a downed hemlock, as we haven’t had substantial rain in Manitou since mid-June. I found another fruiting on 6/30 (pictures of which I’ll mix in below) as they’re known for growing during dry periods. Some of the birches, oaks, and tulips were starting to lose some of their leaves which shows just how dry it was getting up here. Fortunately, it’s been raining intermittently all day, so this week should be great for fungal finds.
The fungus used to be in the genus Paxillus, which is why there is a “pax” in “velvet-footed pax”. The unmistakable stipe consists of dark, matted hairs creating the “velvet-foot”. The current genus, Tapinella, means carpet/rug (“tapestry” is derived from the same root) and atrotomentosa means dark and hairy, referring to the texture of the stipe. Notice the suede stipe and pinheads (immature mushrooms) in the picture below.
This mushroom is technically a bolete as it falls in the Order Boletales. Unfortunately, its edibility is not the same as some of the choice boletes, like porcini (Boletus edulis), and sources vary on the toxicity. Allegedly, folks in Europe eat it after boiling the mushrooms and disposing of the water – a method known as parboiling (partial boiling). Tests on the chemical composition and amino acid level reveal that these mushrooms aren’t substantially different than other edible mushrooms, but mature specimens develop an acrid taste unsuitable for consumption.
Perhaps you pass on them for dinner, but they can still be used for dyeing wool (reference 5). If you’ve got some household ammonia lying around underneath your sink, don’t hold it up to your nose and inhale it – I learned that the hard way in chemistry lab, but instead add a few drops to the stipe to create a vibrant purple chemical reaction.
T. atrotomentosa is saprobic, growing and obtaining nutrients from dead conifer wood. The mushrooms will grow solitarily or in groups, summer through fall. They grow throughout temperate forests of the northern hemisphere, wherever dead conifers are found, but have also been found in Chile and New Zealand. The gills, which run decurrently down the stipe, are white when young and age into an off-white, cream color before eventually turning brown. The color of the spores is yellowish brown or simply, in mycological terms, “buff”.
The brown in the cap is created by atromentin, a defense chemical produced by the fungus in response to wounds caused by insects or curious humans. In the photo below, notice how the gills fork as they near the stipe. You also get a better idea of the “rollrim”, or how the margin of the cap seems to roll over into the gills.
Tomorrow I’m trekking down to Greenpoint to see one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan, speak about his newest book, This is Your Mind on Plants. It looks like tickets are still available here if you’re interested. The documentary How to Change Your Mind, based on Pollan’s previous book, was also released on Netflix this past week. I’ve not yet watched it but I am plodding my way through the book and enjoying it.
This Sunday is the For the Love of Fungi event at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, NY. Whether you are like those teeny pinheads in the picture above, just beginning your journey in the mycoverse, or are a bug-ridden, desiccated toadstool, this event will be tons of fun for everyone. Ciara and I are volunteering throughout the day, specifically helping out with the paper-making and inoculation demo, and we hope to see you there!
I’m participating in a conversation with journalist Zach Sokol on the cultivation and use of medicinal mushrooms at the Alchemist’s Kitchen in Soho next Thursday, 7/28. You can find out more about the event and get tickets here.
Batting cleanup, there’s Mycofest on 8/5-8/7 at the Stonehedge Gardens in Tamaqua, PA. Three days jam-packed with arts, presentations, and forays. It was one of my favorite weekends of 2021 and it looks like this year will be bigger and better organized. To scroll through the schedule and get tickets you can visit https://www.mycofest.net
Thanks for dancing everyone – it finally paid off,
1) Kuo, M. (2015, January). Tapinella atrotomentosa. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/tapinella_atrotomentosa.html