Leccinum versipelle (Fr. & Hök) Snell - Orange Birch Bolete

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Boletales - Family: Boletaceae

Leccinum versipelle - Orange Birch Bolete, Caledonian Forest, Scotland

Appearing only under birch trees, sometimes together with Leccinum scabrum (the Brown Birch Bolete), Leccinum versipelle is commonly known as the Orange Birch Bolete.

Formerly considered as separate species, following DNA analysis Leccinum cerinum, Leccinum percandidum and Leccinum roseotinctum are now considered by many authorities to be merely colour forms of Leccinum versipelle.

Leccinum versipelle - Orange Birch Bolete, Ireland

Distribution

A fairly common find in Britain and Ireland, the Orange Birch Bolete occurs throughout most of mainland Europe, from Scandinavia right down to Portugal, Spain and Italy. Leccinum versipelle is also recorded from parts of North America.

Taxonomic history

The Orange Birch Bolete was described in 1835 by Swedish mycologists Elias Magnus Fries and Fredrik Christopher Theodor Hök (1807 - 1877) in their thesis Boleti, Fungorum generis, illustratio and it was given the binomial scientific name Boletus versipellis.

American mycologist Walter Henry Snell (1889 - 1980) transferred this species to the genus Leccinum in 1944, at which point it acquired its currently-accepted scientific name Leccinum versipelle.

Leccinum versipelle - Orange Birch Bolete - a group seen in central Scotland

Synonyms of Leccinum versipelle include Boletus floccopus Rostk., Boletus testaceoscaber Secr., Boletus versipellis Fr. & Hök, Boletus rufescens Konrad, Boletus percandidus Vassilkov, Leccinum testaceoscabrum Secr. ex Singer, Leccinum percandidum (Vassilkov) Watling, Leccinum atrostipitatum A.H. Sm., Thiers & Watling, Leccinum roseotinctum Watling, Krombholziella roseotincta (Watling) Šutara, Krombholziella rufescens (Konrad) Šutara, Krombholziella versipellis (Fr. & Hök) Bon, Leccinum rufescens (Konrad) Šutara, and Leccinum cerinum M. Korhonen.

Etymology

Leccinum, the generic name, comes from an old Italian word meaning fungus. The specific epithet versipelle is a reference to the changing nature of the surface of the cap (pellicle).

Although cap colour is alluded to in the common names opf several Leccinum species, with this group of boletes it is unwise to draw any conclusion from this very variable characteristic.

Identification guide

Cap of Leccinum versipelle

Cap

This is a very large mushroom, and caps mature at between 8 and 20cm diameter, remaining broadly convex rather than flattening out completely.

A distinguishing feature of this bolete is the fact that the cuticle overhangs the cap margin by typically 2-4mm. The surface is minutely downy, usually orange or yellowish brown. As with so many of the Leccinum boletes, there is also a rare pallid form whose cap is almost white, sometimes tinged with pink or orange. Beneath the cuticle, the flesh of the cap is firm and white; it does not change colour significantly when a cut or broken surface is exposed to air, but it becomes gradually greyer and eventually blackens with a violet tinge.Visible in the picture is another distinguishing feature of this bolete: the cuticle often has a ragged edge.

Pores of Leccinum versipelle, Orange Birch Bolete

Tubes and Pores

The mouse-grey tubes terminate in tiny pores that turn ochraceous with age.

Closeup of stem of Leccinum versipelle

Stem

The stipe or stem, which can be up to 20cm tall and is typically 2 to 4cm in diameter, tapering in slightly towards the apex, has a white, pale grey or yellowish-grey surface covered with dark brown or blackish woolly scales.

When cut, the pale stem flesh turns greay near the apex but blue-green and then almost black, especially near the stem base.

Spores ofLeccinum versipelle

Spores

Fusiform, thin-walled,11-16 x 3.5-4.5µm, inamyloid.

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Spore print

Ochraceous brown.

Cystidia of Leccinum versipelle

Cystidia abd Basidia

Basidia are four-spored. Also in picture, left, are cystidia on the fertile tube surface.

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Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mycorrhizal, beneath birch mainly on acidic heathland, woodland edges and scrub.

Season

July to September in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Leccinum scabrum, which also occurs under birch, has a brown cap; its stem flesh does not display a marked colour change when it is cut.

Leccinum versipelle - Orange Birch Bolete, Hampshire

Culinary Notes

Leccinum versipelle is generally considered to be a good edible mushroom and can be used in recipes that call for Ceps Boletus edulis (although in both flavour and texture a Cep is superior). Alternatively, use Orange Birch Boletes to make up the required quantity if you do not have sufficient Ceps.

The picture on the left was taken in England by David Kelly, with whose kind permission it is shown here; it demonstrates just how deep the orange coloration of the cap of Leccinum versipelle can sometimes be.

Leccinum versipelle - Orange Birch Bolete, southern England

Reference Sources

Pat O'Reilly, Fascinated by Fungi, 2011.

BMS English Names for Fungi

Henk C. den Bakker, Barbara Gravendeel & Thomas W. Kuyper (2004). An ITS phylogeny of Leccinum and an analysis of the evolution of minisatellite-like sequences within ITS1; Mycologia, 96(1), 2004, pp. 102-118.

British Boletes, with keys to species, Geoffrey Kibby (self published) 3rd Edition 2012.

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.

Other web pages on this species

Machiel Noordeloos (Netherlands)

Roger Phillips (UK)

Marek Snowarski (Poland)

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