Editor’s Note:

Heimioporus betula
The shaggy stalked bolete, Heimioporus betula, is a distinctive and beautiful mushroom. Photo by Anna McHugh.

Although I love to focus on great edible mushrooms on this blog, for some time I have been planning to delve more into the aesthetically pleasing mushrooms that, for one reason or another, are not often to be found anywhere in my pantry or on my table. The shaggy stalked bolete, Heimioporus betula (also known as Austroboletus betula, as well as a host of older names, including Boletus betula, Boletellus betula, Boletus morganii, and Heimioporus alveolatus), is one such mushroom; although I’ve done a lot of culinary fancying-up of this mushroom in these past few years of hunting in North Carolina’s woodlands and wild spaces, I have never gotten them quite right and they usually remind me of munching on a pile of wet leaves.
My dislike for the flavor of the shaggy stalked bolete is not intended to condemn this mushroom to the useless pile by any means, because the shaggy stalked bolete is terrifically beautiful and shares habitat with chanterelles and black trumpets during the summer and early fall in the NC Piedmont, and I consider them to be a decent indicator species of both edible Cantharellus and Craterellus dainties.
Another blessing of the shaggy stalked bolete is the fact that it is a very good example of the trials and windy path of mushroom taxonomy because it has such a wide range of Latin names. Of course, when looking at the boletes as a whole, one is inclined to want to break it down into a few neat and comfortable genera, but this is simply a fool’s errand. The shaggy stalked bolete has some distinguishing features that has caused mycologists to remove it from the genus Boletus and thence from Boletellus, which is an astonishingly common occurrence and makes identifying boletes (even more) challenging than it already is.
So, let’s get right to it, here’s a portrait of the shaggy stalked bolete!
Yours In Fungal Fancy,
Mushroom Anna

Shaggy Stalked Bolete – Key Features

The shaggy stalked bolete, Heimioporus betula, appears in the summer and fall throughout the southern United States, and it does particularly well in and around the North Carolina Triangle. It’s not uncommon for me to find many specimens of this mushroom in a single afternoon, even though the mycelium of this species seems not to produce that many individual mushrooms at the same time (I usually find between one and four mushrooms that are presumably produced by the same mycelium and rarely more).
The name that is perhaps the most common in identification guides for the shaggy stalked bolete is Austroboletus betula, which means “southern bolete,” and this is a fitting name indeed, given that this striking and easily identified mushroom seems to do particularly well in southeastern United States and is an omnipresent species in the North Carolina Piedmont’s mixed wood forests.

Heimioporus betula rhizomorphs
The long stem of the shaggy stalked bolete often has large white rhizomorphs attached to the base. Photo by Anna McHugh.

Some sources indicate that Heimioporus betula is a subtropical species that is similar to, but not identical to, Austroboletus betula, but from my readings, Heimioporus betula is a common mushroom in our fair state of North Carolina, and is no longer in the genus Austroboletus due to slight differences in the appearance of this mushroom’s spores, which are finely pitted. As a point of reference, most mushrooms in the iconic genus Boletus have smooth-surfaced spores, and mushrooms that have been moved into similar genera (for instance, Heimioporus, Stobilomyces, and Austroboletus) have protrusions, pits, spines, or other irregularities on their spores.
The shaggy stalked bolete is quite easy to recognize: it has a long stem that is reddish, with large and very noteworthy yellow shaggy flesh attached to it, and as the mushroom ages, the yellow shags become less evident, leaving a stem that is prominently streaky and reddish-orange with hints of yellow.
The cap of the shaggy stalked bolete ranges from red to brownish-yellow, depending on the mushroom’s age, and the spongy surface under the cap is yellow. Also, one thing you may note when collecting Heimioporus betula is the fuzzy mycelium that clings to the base of this species; if you uproot the mushroom in its entirety, you are likely to find thick and abundant strands of white mycelium attached to the base of the stem.
The cap of the shaggy stalked bolete is small, relative to its long and graceful stalk, often getting to be about the size of a fifty cent piece. It is sticky and somewhat slimy when wet, and tends to be a pleasant peachy color when this mushroom is in its prime. In addition, there are often color discrepancies across the cap, particularly when leaves or pine needles stick to certain bits of the cap, and the portions of the cap that are covered up by forest detritus are often darker in color and more red than the remainder of the cap. The spore print of the shaggy stalked bolete is olive-colored, and as a consequence, the yellow spongy fertile layer under the cap often turns greenish in age.

Shaggy Stalked Bolete – Ecology and Distribution

The shaggy stemmed bolete is a common summer and early fall mushroom in and around the NC Research Triangle, and although it rarely grows in patches of more than a couple individuals (and is often found fruiting all by its lonesome), it’s quite common and appears to prefer hardwood trees such as oak and beech. However, I have frequently found it in forests that are dominated by pine, and it’s possible that this mushroom forms relationships with coniferous trees, or at the very least does not do poorly in pine-rich woodlands.
Heimioporus betula is mycorrhizal, meaning that it forms a mutualistic relationship with a plant or tree partner. Given its propensity for growing right at the base of healthy oak trees, I think it most likely that the mushroom mycelium is growing in concert with the root system of those trees.

Heimioporus betula
This specimen of the shaggy stalked bolete was growing with oak. Photo by Anna McHugh.

Edibility of Heimioporus betula

As mentioned in the introduction to this post, I really am not all that fond of eating the shaggy stalked bolete, and even though a good day in the woods can (and often does) yield a collection or two of them, I rarely find enough to warrant building an entire dish around their rather squishy, lack-luster selves. Of course, as time goes on I suspect I may gain an appreciation for this mushroom’s merits; after all, the first time I tried eating slimy Suillus mushrooms, I was convinced that they were of the devil, and only after peeling them and dehydrating them did I gain an appreciation for their earthy, somewhat porcini-esque flavor (some of the time!). Anyhow, if you’re ever in dire straits or want to try a new mushroom that’s common and easy to ID, Heimioporus betula is a pretty good choice because it’s so distinctive, lacking in poisonous lookalikes, and common that you’re likely to have the chance to find and ID it numerous times before you ever decide to tuck in!

7 thoughts on “The Shaggy Stalked Bolete, Heimioporus Betula”

  1. Thanks for your comments. Two days ago, while on a hike in my western NC woods, I found three very small-capped boletes (on ground where I’ve found chanterelles), which turned out to be shaggy-stalked boletes, as offered for sale by a local mushroom cultivator and harvester, later that day. Though this species is not listed in my mushroom ID book, this individual offered me a tiny portion of raw stem to eat. It was pretty good. Thus, I returned home, and sought these out. All three were still growing, fresh, with small caps. They went into a paper bag, and back home.
    Though my acquaintance said the stems can be eaten raw, I sectioned them, and cooked them very lightly in some olive oil. Warm, they were still good. Yes, I know to eat only a very small portion of any new mushroom. That I did some 14 hours ago– no problems. While I generally eat only a few varieties of wild mushrooms, particularly various types of chanterelles and oysters (I’ve also eaten the more tender parts of the one chicken of the woods I found on a hike), this was too tempting to pass up. Glad I tried it, and will be on the lookout for more!

    1. Interesting, I’d never heard that you could eat this species raw, but then again I am not terribly surprised in a way; Boletus edulis is quite delicious raw, and the first time I ever had true porcini it was in a salad, sliced very thin and sprinkled with olive oil. I sort of wonder about a wide array of boletes in this regard, because they so rarely cause issues for people (as long as they check all the edibility boxes), I suspect that many of them are harmless raw. Anyway, thanks for the input!

  2. Hi Anna,
    One late summer and fall, armed with a rather extensive collection of mushroom field guides and more detailed identification books at home (at the “lab”, as my husband called it), I set out to discover if Pamlico County, NC (on the Neuse River) had any edible ‘shrooms to offer. After weeks of collecting, slicing and dicing and laying caps out on black and white paper to check spore color, I came to the conclusion that, besides a not very good tasting bolete variety (which I did not taste) and a few “chicken” mushrooms, every mushroom in the county was poisonous, slightly poisonous or generally yucky tasting. I’d love your opinion on that statement. Now, having moved 100 miles south to Topsail Island, I find a similar situation at first glance. Have you any input on barrier islands of the southeast and their mushroom populations? I’d rather not repeat the rather lengthy process I went through before (though I did have fun tromping around and being eaten alive by mosquitos.) I did discover one peculiar thing in my travels. It seemed some kind of small creatures (mice, squirrels or something about that size, seemed to love the bright red Aminita growing all over my mother-in-law’s lawn…Little jaw bite-marks ringed the edges. Weird. Who knew rodents like to get high?
    Robin

    1. Hey Robin, I do not have extensive experience collecting on the NC coast; I have hunted there some, but not a tremendous amount. However, your assessment is pretty correct; there are a lot of mushrooms that are either inedible, gross, or poisonous (although the final category is not that large, generally speaking I’d put the percentage of “poisonous” mushrooms at fewer than 10% overall, but that’s just based on personal experience). Also, in many field guides and other resources, there’s the infuriating “inedible” note that really means “no one has ever eaten this mushroom.” Either way, there is a big difference between “edible” and “choice,” and I find that tremendous numbers of species are “edible” that I would never bother eating (or even sampling).
      As far as the coastal ecology, I have found a good number of edible species, primarily lion’s mane and indigo lactarius. However, truth told, I understand that the coast is not as conducive to the great diversity (and hence greater number of edible and choice species) that is found inland and in the mountains. From what I understand, one issue is the soil chemistry, which lends itself to great numbers of mushrooms, but fewer mushroom species overall, particularly when it comes to secondary decomposers (such as Agaricus species) that rely on deep and fertile topsoil undisturbed by winds, hurricanes, and without the excess of sand. Anyhow, overall my experience with mushrooming is that, on the whole, not that many mushroom species are actually worth collecting for the table.
      As for the Amanitas that get eaten: squirrels love mushrooms, and it’s common for them to go after Amanita species, boletes, and lots of other mushrooms as well. It is not clear to me whether or not they get any effects from the psychoactive compounds in some Amanita species; one thing that’s always amazed me is the fact that Amanita phalloides (death cap) mushrooms are strongly favored by deer, who eat them like candy. I guess what I am getting at is that I am always astonished that some mammals don’t seem to react to certain mushrooms in the same way that we do. That said, it would also not surprise me ONE BIT if squirrels went after Amanita muscaria for its intoxicating effects; after all, reindeer eat them and are so inclined toward them it seems entirely possible that they’re getting something out of it! Anyhow thanks for the comment!

    2. Interesting comments Robin. I myself moved from Europe to Wilmington 1 year ago and now I have to learn all over again.. There are lots of species New to me here, and even the familiar ones I am wary of, since I do not yet know the lookalikes.. As you, i have found lots of mushroom, not many edible. Glad to hear now it was not just my ignorance. Although I did find good edible Chanterelles in the wilmington area.. Btw: you are the first I hear of in this area that is interested in mushrrom. You would not know of a local club or group in the area? I would love to join..

  3. Interesting comments Robin. I myself moved from Europe to Wilmington 1 year ago and now I have to learn all over again.. There are lots of species New to me here, and even the familiar ones I am wary of, since I do not yet know the lookalikes.. As you, i have found lots of mushroom, not many edible. Glad to hear now it was not just my ignorance. Although I did find good edible Chanterelles in the wilmington area.. Btw: you are the first I hear of in this area that is interested in mushrrom. You would not know of a local club or group in the area? I would love to join..

  4. I just plucked a Shaggy Stalked Bolete from the woods by my house this evening. Thinly sliced, I sautéed it with butter and olive oil until slightly crisp. It had a wonderful delicate flavor with strong lemony undertones. If I ever find enough at one time I think I would sprinkle them over sautéed scallops. This may be my new favorite!

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