Monday, September 26, 2016

Orange mosscaps and brown boletes

Moss is everywhere in our coastal rain forests. It forms thick cushions under the evergreens, buries rotting logs, climbs the trees and dangles from overhead. Out in the open, it carpets rock outcrops; there, in summer when the rains fail for a while, it turns grey-green, dry and crisp; it makes a crunchy sound when you walk on it. The rain comes back, and overnight, the moss is soft and bright. It holds the water like a sponge, providing a cozy home for moisture-loving mushrooms, slugs, and sprouting ferns and salal.

On one of these rock outcrops, I found Orange Moss Agaric mushrooms (aka Orange Mosscap).

Tiny mushrooms. The largest is about 1 cm. across the cap.

These mushrooms grow around the world, but always in association with moss. Seemingly identical mushrooms found on wood turn out to be a different species.

A large, pale beige mushroom, growing under salal at Echo Lake. With slug nibbles.

A bolete, after a hearty slug meal.

There are hundreds of bolete species. Some are edible and quite good. I used to harvest them in the Bella Coola area; added to a meat dish, they disintegrated to make a smooth, nutty gravy.*

Instead of gills, the boletes have tubes that end in small pores on the underside of the cap; it looks like a fine plastic foam, soft to the touch, and usually damp. Inside, I often find small, white worms beating the slugs to the delicious flesh. (I never cooked the wormy ones.)

The underside of the boletus above, greatly magnified. To the naked eye, it was just foam.

The large mushrooms were on the shore of Echo Lake. The mosscaps were a bit further down the highway, on a rocky hillside.

*Want to try boletes? Here's a useful page on preparing them for cooking. And here's a recipe.**

**Caution: some boletes are poisonous. Be sure you know what you're collecting before you try them. Never eat one with red pores. And it is rumoured that the Orange Mosscaps are mildly hallucinogenic.


  1. The boletes have begun to emerge from our mulch patch behind our home. A few years ago, I went as far as microwave-cooking one, and sampling it. It still seemed a bit tangy, casting doubt in my mind on the edibility of that particular species.

  2. They have a mushroom picking class through the Rec Center here. I try each time to get on the list, but I'm always too late. Maybe this year will be my lucky one. - Margy

  3. Like to take the mushroom picking class


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