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Paragyrodon sphaerosporus, the leathery-veiled bolete.

Tom Volk's Fungus oI the Month Ior July 2006


Please click TomJolkFungi.net for the rest of Tom Jolks pages on fungi
This month's Iungus was one oI the most interesting Iungi Iound at the July
2005 North American Mycological Association (NAMA) Ioray in La Crosse.
Since most Iorayers had never seen this species beIore, I'm sure it will bring back
Iond memories Ior the 180 or so people who attended. Despite dry weather, we Iound
more than 250 species oI Iungi!
At first glance Paragyrodon sphaerosporus is not much to look at, kind of brown
and tannish yellow, but on closer examination it's really quite interesting, with its
leathery partial veil (more on that later). It appears that this bolete is most
common in the upper midwestern United States and has been found west to
Kansas, Montana, Colorado and Utah. This species is especially noted in
Wisconsin and Minnesota (especially the unglaciated "driftless" area of
southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota), as well as Michigan. I would not
be surprised to find it in northern Iowa and Illinois. It was described by Peck in
1885 as Boletus sphaerosporus from a site in New York state, so it likely occurs
throughout the Great Lakes region of the USA and Canada. In our many years
of collecting around La Crosse, we have only ever found it in one patch of oak
woods and nowhere else. Smith and Thiers report it as a sometimes "weed" in
lawns in parts of southern Michigan. Where else have you found this distinctive
bolete?

Paragyrodon sphaerosporus is one oI the boletes, which are distinguished by their
producing mushroom-like Iruiting bodies with pores on the underside instead oI gills
or teeth. II you've been reading my pages, you'll remember that the other group oI
pored Iungi are the polypores. I think we'll Iirst review (or tell you Ior the Iirst time)
"What is a bolete?"
Boletes are a group oI mostly mycorrhizal, mushroom shaped Iungi, distinguished by
their pores. Like gills, these pores are lined with basidia that produce basidiospores,
serving to increase the surIace area. These are distinguished Irom the other major
group oI pored Iungi, the polypores, by several diIIerent characteristics, as shown in
this table:

oletes Polypores
Pore layer Peels oII Does not peel oII
Nutrition Mycorrhizal, i.e. with a
mutualistic association
with roots oI trees
Wood decay
Fruiting
location
Typically on the ground,
Iruiting Irom the roots oI
trees
Typically directly on
wood, although may be
on the ground Irom
buried wood.
Shape Typically mushroom
shaped
Typically in the Iorm oI
a shelI or some other
shape
So you can see it's usually easy to distinguish between boletes and polypores,
although there are a Iew that will give you trouble by breaking the rules. For example,
members oI the genus lbatrellus are considered to be polypores because their pores
don't peel, even though they are mycorrhizal. Polyporus radicatus and several related
polypores without peeling pores almost always grow on the ground, but iI you dig
down, you can almost always Iind the piece oI buried wood Irom which the Iungus is
Iruiting. There are also a Iew boletes, like Boletus mirabilis that climb up on logs to
Iruit, raising themselves up to get their spores Iurther into the air stream. In Iact some
mycologists argue that some oI these boletes may not be mycorrhizal aIter all.
Fortunately, most boletes and polypores have read the books and Iollow the rules.

So now you should
know how to tell the
diIIerence between
boletes and polypores.
But what oI our
oddballParagyrodon
sphaerosporus ? Parag
yrodon
sphaerosporus (Peck)
Singer used to be
known as Suillus
sphaerosporus (Peck)
Smith & Thiers, but it
is rather diIIerent Irom
other boletes such as Boletus edulis,Boletus barrowsii, Gyroporus cyanescens,
and Suillus americanus.
One major diIIerence is the shape oI the spores. Most boletes have cylindrical shaped
brown basidiospores, which means that they are elongated and Ilattened on the sides,
kind oI like a can oI spray paint. P. sphaerosporus spores are --- well --- spherical. OI
course that's where the speciIic term comes Irom. Basidiospore characteristics play a
major role in distinguishing between genera oI Iungi, with a diIIerent shape usually
indicating a diIIerent genus. Within a single genus, usually the shape oI the
basidiospores is the same, but the spores diIIer in size between the species in that
genus. There are, oI course, exceptions to this rule, but we'll leave those Ior another
day.
P. sphaerosporus is also diIIerent because oI its leathery partial veil that covers the
pores to protect them as they are developing. As the Iruiting body enlarges as the cells
oI the cap inIlate, the Iorce oI the expansion ruptures the veil, as shown to the right.
By then the basidiospores are mature and can be released to the environment, where
they can potentially produce more oI the species. There are some other species oI
boletes that have a partial veil, but none so tough and leathery as Paragyrodon. For
example, some Suillus species have a partial veil; this is one oI the reasons
our Paragyrodonwas once called Suillus sphaerosporus. However, Suillus veils tend
to be rather slimy, not leathery. Also, the veil oI Paragyrodon is attached almost at the
base oI the stem, so that the immature mushroom is almost shaped like a toy top.
Another big diIIerence is that all Suillus species (so Iar as I know) are mycorrhizal
with members oI the Pinaceae, especially pines (Pinus spp.). P. sphaerosporus is
always mycorrhizal with oak (Quercusspp.), not pine. There are, oI course, many
other genera oI Iungi whose members are mycorrhizal with oaks.
Any one oI these characteristics is probably not enough to merit construction oI new
genus, but these major diIIerences indicate that Paragyrodon sphaerosporus does not
belong in any other bolete genus. This is why RolI Singer created the
genus Paragyrodon in 1942. In many ways, Singer was Iar ahead oI his time, with a
large percentage oI his distinctions corroborated by molecular biology techniques, like
PCR and DNA sequencing.

OI course, the big question is, "Is it edible?" It's very tempting to eat it because they
can be a big mushrooms (20 cm or more across the cap) and is sometimes locally
abundant. Well we don't know that Ior sure because there has been no rigorous
scientiIic testing. However there are anecdotal reports Irom various people have tried
it and survived without ill eIIects. You're on your own on this one.

For more oI the details on the anatomy and history oI Paragyrodon sphaerosporus,
you can visit Michael Kuo's P. sphaerosporus page at MushroomExpert.com.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the very unusual leathery-veiled
bolete Paragyrodon sphaerosporus. It's not very common, but when you Iind this
species there are usually many Iruiting bodies. Good luck on your hunting!

If you have anything to add, or if you have corrections, comments, or
recommendations for future FotM's (or maybe you'd like to be co-author of a
FotM?), please write to me at
%his page and other pages are Copyright 2 by %homas 1. Jolk, University of Wisconsin-
La Crosse.
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