|Major Groups > Boletes > Strobilomyces > Strobilomyces floccopus|
Strobilomyces floccopus: The Old Man of the Woods
by Michael Kuo
. . . for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber or plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with weak hams . . .
This is Hamlet's description of his girlfriend's father, Strobilomyces polonius, but it works reasonably well for the "Old Man of the Woods" as well.
How this mushroom got its oddly appropriate common name is unclear to me. I can find no one using it in turn-of-the-century mushroom treatises, or in the first half of (what has just become) the last century. The scientific name, Strobilomyces floccopus, roughly translated, means "wooly mushroom that looks like a pine cone"--rather more accurate as a descriptor, perhaps, but less interesting. As late as 1936, mushroom authors are using interpretations of the scientific name as "common" names; Krieger calls it the "cone-like boletus" in The Mushroom Handbook, and William Thomas calls it the "pine cone mushroom" in Field Book of Common Mushrooms. The first reference to the "Old Man of the Woods" I find is in Smith's 1958 The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide, but my edition is the eighth printing, from 1973.
You're not likely to confuse this bolete with any other mushroom except the other Old Man of the Woods, Strobilomyces confusus, which is only slightly different (see the key to Strobilomyces and my comments below). It is prominently wooly and scaly, a mixture of black and white and gray, and, overall, rather unkempt. Find it once and you'll know what it is. If you really want to be sure of your identification, slice it open and watch the flesh turn pinkish red, then slowly blacken over the course of an hour or so.
Ecology: Mycorrhizal with hardwoods, especially oaks; common; summer and fall; primarily distributed in eastern North America but also recorded from the Southwest.
Cap: 3-15 cm; convex becoming broadly convex in age; dry; covered with coarse, black, woolly scales over a whitish to grayish base color; the margin frequently with hanging remnants of a partial veil.
Pore Surface: Whitish, soon becoming gray and finally black; bruising reddish, then black; pores angular; tubes to 1.5 cm.
Flesh: Whitish throughout, turning pinkish to red when exposed, then blackening over the course of an hour.
Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
Chemical Reactions: Flesh pale brownish yellow with ammonia, reddish with KOH, and bluish gray with iron salts.
Spore Print: Blackish brown to black.
Microscopic Features: Spores 9.5-15 x 8.5-12 µ; round, nearly round, or nearly elliptical; with ornamentation forming a complete reticulum.
REFERENCES: (Persoon, 1796) Kasrten, 1882. (Saccardo, 1888; Coker & Beers, 1943; Smith & Thiers, 1971; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Both, 1993; Barron, 1999; Bessette, Roody & Bessette, 2000; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Kuo, 2007; Ortiz-Santana et al., 2007; Binion et al., 2008.) Herb. Kuo 07079503, 06200201, 09020501, 07210705.
Strobilomyces strobilaceus is probably a synonym, though there is some discussion in older texts of whether one or the other name belongs to a strictly European species. The Index Fungorum reports Strobilomyces strobilaceus as the proper name for Strobilomyces floccopus.
Strobilomyces confusus is smaller, and has small, hard projections rather than loose, wooly scales (however, some mycologists dispute whether the stiffness of the cap scales is a constant difference). Additionally, it has spores that are ornamented with spines and projections but are less clearly reticulate.
Further Online Information:
Cite this page as:
Kuo, M. (2006, November). Strobilomyces floccopus: The old man of the woods. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/strobilomyces_floccopus.html