Albatrellus subrubescens (Murrill) Pouz.

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Russulales - Family: Albatrellaceae

Albatrellus subrubescens

Seen from above these slightly rufous polypores, not known to occur in Britain and Ireland but fairly common in some European mainland countries, cold be mistaken for Terracotta Hedgehogs, Hydnum rufescens. Often, however, the caps are so distorted that they look more like crumpled brown paper bags.

Some authorities believe that this edible mushroom may be mycorrhizal with conifers, and in particular with spruce trees.

Albatrellus subrubescens, Portugal

Distribution

Uncommon to rare on mainland Europe, mostly in the central and southern regions. This species is also reported from temperate parts of Asia and North America, but it is easily confused with other similar species. In particular it is very difficult from macroscopic characters alone to differentiate between Albatrellus subrubescens and Albatrellus ovinus, the Forest Lamb or Sheep Polypore. Albatrellus subrubescens turns reddish-orange when bruised, whereas Albatrellus ovinus hardly changes at all. Microscopic investigation is more conclusive, however: the spores of Albatrellus subrubescens are amyloid - the walls of its spores stain bluish-black to black when immersed in Melzer's reagent, whereas spores of Albatrellus ovinus are inamyloid (do not react to Melzers reagent). Another difference is that the spores of Albatrellus subrubescens are warty, whereas the spores of Albatrellus ovinus are smooth.

First described in 1940 by American mycologist William Murrill (1869 - 1957), who gave it the scientific binomial name Scutiger subrubescens, this species was transferred to the genus Albatrellus in 1965 by Czech mycologist Zdeněk Pouzar (born 1932).

Taxonomic history

Synonyms of Albatrellus subrubescens include Scutiger subrubescens Murrill, Polyporus subrubescens (Murrill) Murrill, Albatrellus similis Pouz., Scutiger ovinus var. subrubescens (Murrill) L.G.Krieglst., and Albatrellus ovinus var. subrubescens (Murrill) L.G.Krieglst.

Etymology

Albatrellus, the genus name, is not so easy to see through. Alba- means white, of course, while -ellus indicates something much smaller than the norm, and in this instance it must be the pores. So 'white fungi with very small pores' is the best I can come up with. Any other suggestions? The specific epithet subrubescens means becoming reddish, and indeed some people call this the Redenning Polypore.

Identification guide

Cap and stem of Albatrellus subrubescens

Cap

7 to 18cm across, cream with rufous and violet tinges, turning orange when bruised; convex, soon flattening and becoming centrally depressed, distorted and lobed; margin wavy and usually remaining incurved; skin cracks when old or in very dry weather. Often several caps merge and become firmly conjoined.

Stem

Creamy white or slightly rufous, turning orange where bruised; 3 to 7cm tall, 1 to 3cm diameter.

Pores of Albatrellus subrubescens

Pores

White or creamy yellow; irregularly oval; tubes decurrent; 2 to 3 per mm.

Spores of Albatrellus subrubescens

Spores

Ellipsoidal to ovoid, 3.4-4.7 by 2.2-3.4 µm; amyloid (readily separating this species from Albatrellus ovinus, whose spores are inamyloid), finely warty.

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Not significant.

Habitat & Ecological role

In woods, often under conifers.

Season

July to December.

Similar species

Albatrellus ovinus has a paler cap surface, and it does not turn orange when bruised. Confident differentiation of these two very similar species requires microscopic examination of the spores, which are amyloid in Albatrellus subrufescens but inamyloid in Albatrellus ovinus.

Culinary Notes

This is one of the very few polypores with a tradition of culinary popularity... if you happen to live in Finland, that is, for there it (together with its close relative Albatrellus ovinus) is sold commercially in large quantities. Elsewhere the local field guides seem for the most part to offer a vague 'generally considered edible' but without advice of recipes. Despite having numerous opportunities to gather these chunky woodland fungi on mainland Europe, we have not yet tried them and so we are unable to comment from first-hand experience. In texture they are very similar to Hydnum repandum, the Wood Hedgehog, which we find delicious in all sorts of dishes from soups and risottos to our own favourite invention which we call 'Hedgehogs on Toast'.

Reference Sources

Pat O'Reilly (2016) Fascinated by Fungi; First Nature

BMS List of English Names for Fungi

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

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