The true porcini mushroom is well-known as a prized edible mushroom. Boletus edulis, as it is known scientifically, has a common name in just about every country where it has been found. Steinpilz, cep, penny bun, king bolete, panza, prawdziwek, and pravi virganj are just a few. Often viewed as “wild crafted,” it can’t be cultivated and grown artificially; it is only found in nature.
Recently, we’ve learned more about the family lineage of this tasty fungus. By analyzing DNA gene sequences, my colleague Dr. Bryn Dentinger at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew identified two relatives that are species new to science. We and four other colleagues have just described these species in Mycologia (July/August 2014).
Roy Halling, Ph.D., is Curator of Mycology in The New York Botanical Garden‘s Institute of Systematic Botany. Among his primary research interests is the bolete (or porcini) family of mushrooms, especially those found in Southeast Asia and Australia.
Thirty years ago, I published a book, based on my Ph.D. thesis, describing collybioid mushrooms as they occur in the northeastern United States. These mushrooms, which have no real culinary value, are ecologically important because they decompose leaves and other plant litter in natural habitats. One of the common species in the northeast is called Gymnopus subnudus.
While exploring for bolete mushrooms (porcini family) on the Atherton Tableland in Queensland, Australia, I’ve often encountered over the last 20 years this unnamed collybioid mushroom with bluish green pigments. Even the cells at the edge of the gills are filled with the pigment.
Benjamin M. Torke is an Assistant Curator at the Garden’s Institute of Systematic Botany. His specialty is legumes, a large plant family that includes not only beans and peanuts but also hundreds of rainforest tree species.
As an avid history buff, I get excited when my research on neotropical legumes turns up unexpected historical connections. In one recent example, the discovery of a new species of tree shed light on a mostly forgotten episode in the 19th-century international struggle to control shipping commerce.
From 1857 to 1860, Arthur Carl Victor Schott—a topographical engineer, cartographer, naturalist, and artist—was part of a U.S. Army-sponsored expedition to survey a route for a transoceanic canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, one that passed through nearly impenetrable tropical rainforests in the Darien region of northwestern Colombia. The expedition was destined to become a historical footnote—an alternative route through what is now Panama was ultimately chosen for the now-famous canal—but a small collection of dried plant specimens that Schott gathered during the expedition have ongoing importance.