Scientific name: Boletus campestris
There’s something about this small bolete that makes mushroom hunters smile. Maybe it’s the Easter Egg look of those bright, rosy-red, rounded caps scattered through the thin forest grass. Or, the vision of the dish these cuties will make back home. For whatever reasons, finding a group of Grass Boletes warms a fungus fanatic’s heart.
Separating this bolete from the few reddish-capped, yellowish-pored, small, closely related species is difficult. Mix-up mistakes are common. These copycats seem to be edible, since Grass Bolete hunters report very few stomach and intestinal problems. Nevertheless, experienced and long-lived mushroomers like myself are uncomfortable with that kind of uncertainty. We want to know the name of the mushrooms we eat with as much accuracy as possible. It’s not always easy.
Unlike many other boletes, this species usually grows in grassy places in public areas, such as parks, roadsides, and picnic grounds areas. It sometimes conveniently appears in lawns, usually bordered by woods, near our homes. Maybe it likes people.
IN A NUTSHELL: SMALL MUSHROOM WITH A ROSY-RED ROUNDED CAP THAT OFTEN DISPLAYS FINE CRACKS WITH AGE. YELLOW PORES THAT BRUISE GREENISH-BLUE. GROWS IN GRASS IN OPEN PLACES IN AND NEAR WOODS.
CAP: 3/4” to 1 1/2” wide. Rosy-red when young, becoming paler with age. Dry and slightly velvety. Finely cracked with age, showing yellow between the cracks. Exposed flesh is at first yellowish, and then becomes greenish blue. A drop of ammonia on the cap shows no color change.
PORES: Yellow, becoming greenish-yellow with age. Bruise bluish-green.
SPORE PRINT: Olive brown.
STEM: 1 1/8” to 2 3/4” long, 3/16” to 3/8” thick. Pale yellow near the top. Darker and reddish-powdery near the base. Bruises greenish-blue. Not narrowed at the base. Without a ring.
GROWTH: On the ground in open grassy areas, usually near hardwood trees. June to October.
EDIBILITY: Good flavor in the button stage, with a delicate texture. Becomes soft, even mushy, with age.
COOKING HINT: Adds a beautiful color to stir-fry dishes.
COPYCATS: B. rubellus usually does not grow in grass, and its stem is typically narrow and reddish-orange at the base. It is edible, but may taste bitter. Edible B. fraternus displays a strongly cracked cap surface with age. Microscopic spore examinations and chemical tests help to separate the members of this copycat group, but new studies may show these 3 boletes are variations of the same species.
TIP: Anyone serious about identifying boletes will find “North American Boletes” by Alan E. Bessette, Willian C. Roody, and Arleen R. Bessette to be indispensable.