Last weekend in Hannagan Meadow we were hitting the Boletus rubriceps pretty hard, but hadn’t found any of my favorite B. barrowsii. I was delighted to spot a large, fat-stemmed white bolete, visible from fifty yards away, on a north-facing slope under mixed Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. At last, it seemed, the ghost of Chuck Barrows had smiled on us.
But alas, it was not to be. Closer inspection revealed the reddish cap of another B. rubriceps mostly hidden under a thick layer of chalky, caked-on white powder. The pores underneath the cap, and the reticulations on the stipe, were nearly obliterated by the same substance. The stipe was not just fat, but grotesquely swollen and distorted. This was no Barrows’ bolete… It appears instead to have been an outbreak of parasitic infection, almost certainly the bolete-eater, Hypomyces chrysospermus. This cousin of H. lactifluorum, the ascomycete that creates delicious lobster mushrooms from undistinguished Russula and Lactarius, is unfortunately not nearly so palatable as its relative. In fact, Arora and other authors believe it may even be poisonous. It is certainly unappetizing and disappointing to see such a large and beautiful bolete consumed by this cottony white mold.
Several other boletes found the same day were similarly affected. Most of them showed infiltrated, overgrown stipes that were fat even for boletes, in some cases exceeding the diameter of the cap:
Luckily, however, it is unusual for this parasite to affect more than a few individual hosts in a given area. We still managed to take home a good quantity of boletes, along with buckets of lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum), a single Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus), a few young Caesar’s amanitas (A. Caesarea/”cochiseana”), some dried-out oysters (Pleurotus pulmonarius), a single chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), a few puffballs (Lycoperdon sp.), a large Hericium, perhaps H. abietis, and a large basket full of elderberries.