Musing about Merville Mushrooms

We’ve had some fairly wet weather over the last week and the mushrooms are loving it. Fall is a great time of year on the West Coast for the mushroom enthusiast and Jocie and I took the toddlers out to “look for mushrooms.”

An excellent place to find a variety of mushrooms in the Comox Valley is out at Merville Woods, a area that is characterized by very sandy soil and a mixed forest of Douglas Fir, Hemlock and White Pine. Every fall we make our way to Merville Woods to enjoy the walking trails and search for mushrooms.

This weekend there was a break in the weather on Sunday so we packed the stroller, kids and gumboots into the car and returned to Merville Woods.

Identifying mushrooms is pretty challenging. While I’m not always 100% sure I’ve gotten them right it is great fun trying to work them out. A few that we saw on our nature walk were familiar but there were a couple of new ones thrown into the mix.

Siberian Slippery Jack (Suillus sibiricus)?

Siberian Slippery Jack (Suillus sibiricus)
The yellowish cap of the Siberian Slippery Jack (Suillus sibiricus)? glows in dark forests.

I found a couple of these at the very end of our walk close to the parking area. The slimy yellow top was quite noticeable against the dark moss of the forest floor. I’ve never seen this species of bolete before and picked a sample to photograph and to take home to make a spore print.

After wrestling with the key in David Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified I’m reasonably confident that I’ve got the identification correct. The cap is described as being yellowish in colour and viscid when wet with scales or streaks of brown, especially close to the margin. The flesh of this mushroom bruises a vinaceous or pink colour – I’m not sure that my mushroom quite matches that but I think that the thumb print is more blackish/red wine stainish than it is blue. Not visible in these photographs, but the base of the stalk was definitely vinaceous-stained. Spore print was brown which fits with this species.

Siberian Slippery Jack (Suillus sibiricus)
Siberian Slippery Jack (Suillus sibiricus)? showing almost salmon-coloured pores.

My doubts come from the inexact match with stain colour and the lack of a veil, although Arora states that the veil forms a cottony remnant at the margin edge and occasionally a slight ring on the stalk. I think that there is a bit of a whiteness at the edge of the margin of this mushroom.

Lake’s Bolete (Suillus lakei)

Lake's Bolete (Suillus lakei)
The dry, brown cap, ragged ring and two coloured stem are distinctive in Lake's Bolete (Suillus lakei).

We’ve found Lake’s Bolete before and it’s a pretty easy boletus to identify. The reddish/brown textured cap is generally dry to the touch (in comparison to other slippery jacks). The underside is yellowish in colour when young and stains reddish to reddish-brown when bruised. This mushroom does have a veil which is evident as ring or ragged zone on the stalk: below the ring the stalk is reddish-brown and streaked; above the ring the stalk is yellowish in colour. Lake’s Bolete grows in association with Douglas-fir and prefers poor soil.

Dotted-Stalked Slippery Jack (Suillus granulatus)?

Dotted-Stalked Slippery Jack (Suillus granulatus)?
Not sure if this is Dotted-Stalked Slippery Jack (Suillus granulatus) but it's definitely slippery!

I’m leaning toward the Dotted-Stalked Slippery Jack with this one – we’ve found it at Merville Woods before and although I didn’t take a very close look at the pores and attempt to bruise it, the appearance seems to suggested S. granulatus. The pale buff colour of the cap fits well but aside from that I’m not sure of the other field marks since I didn’t take a sample or make a spore print. I wish now that I had taken a closer look at the stalk since the stem of this species of mushroom is bright yellow at the top and white below.

Looking for mushrooms is a great way to add some interest to your own fall nature walks. It’s not really that important to identify them correctly if you’re not eating them and children can help with the hunt. Boletes are excellent for beginners since their pore structure is so distinctive and easy to see. Impress your friends by identifying a bolete on your next walk!

And if there are any mushroom experts out there who want to confirm the identity of these beautiful boletes, please let me know!