A Guide to Bolete Mushrooms in Northwest Ontario

Bolete mushrooms are a fascinating and diverse group of fungi found in Northwest Ontario. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to identifying various species of boletes commonly found in the region. By understanding their unique features, habitat preferences, and edibility, you can confidently forage and appreciate these remarkable organisms.

The Bolete Family: An Overview

The Bolete family, scientifically known as Boletaceae, consists of over 300 species. Boletes are characterized by their distinct cap and stem structure, along with the presence of pores rather than gills on the underside of the cap. These pores release spores, facilitating reproduction and dispersal.

Boletes in General

Boletes in General are all edible mushrooms with pores in place of gills. They may all be classified as edible however some can make you sick so there are a few Bolete rules to follow.
  • Boletes have pores under the cap, not gills or teeth.
  • Avoid red/orange pore or stem surfaces.
  • If you cut it and it turns blue or green – its probably gonna cause problems (there is an exception).
  • Beware orange capped species – they can cause adverse reactions.
  • Worms, animals and bugs love Boletes.
  • Some people can have adverse reactions to perfectly edible species.


Gill Types: Note colour, staining and type of gills present.

Key Characteristics of Boletes

When identifying boletes in Northwest Ontario, keep an eye out for the following key characteristics:

  1. Cap shape and colour: Boletes have a variety of cap shapes, ranging from convex to flat. Cap colours can be diverse, including shades of red, brown, yellow, and even blue.
  2. Pore surface: The pore surface is typically composed of small, round openings. The colour of the pores can be an essential factor in identification, as it may change with age or upon bruising.
  3. Stem features: Boletes possess a central stem, which can vary in length, thickness, and colour. Some species have a reticulated (net-like) pattern on the stem surface, while others are smooth or scaly.
  4. Spore print: Taking a spore print can be a valuable identification tool. To obtain a spore print, place the cap of the mushroom on a sheet of paper and cover it with a glass or bowl for several hours. The colour of the spore print can range from white to dark brown, depending on the species.

Habitat Preferences and Fruiting Season

Boletes are mycorrhizal fungi that form mutually beneficial relationships with trees. As such, they can be found in various forest habitats, from coniferous to deciduous forests. The specific tree species they associate with can often help identify the bolete species.

In Northwest Ontario, boletes are commonly found in mixed forests, associating with pines, spruces, birches, and aspens. The fruiting season typically spans from late spring to early fall, with peak abundance occurring in late summer.

Safety Tips and Responsible Foraging

When foraging for boletes, keeping safety and sustainability in mind is essential. Follow these guidelines to ensure a positive experience:

  1. Proper identification: Always be certain of the species before consuming any wild mushroom. If in doubt, consult an experienced forager, field guide, or local mycological society.
  2. Be aware of look-alikes: Some boletes have toxic look-alikes, such as the Bitter Bolete (Tylopilus felleus) or the Devil’s Bolete (Rubroboletus satanas). Carefully observe key features and consult multiple resources to ensure everything is clear.
  3. Harvest responsibly: Only collect a small portion of the available mushrooms, leaving plenty for wildlife and the continued growth of the mycelium. To minimize disturbance, use a knife to cut the stem at the base rather than pulling the mushroom from the ground.
  4. Be cautious with edibility: Even edible boletes may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals. Begin with small quantities and cook them thoroughly to reduce potential issues.

Preserving and Cooking Boletes

Boletes can be preserved and enjoyed in various ways. Here are some popular methods:

  1. Drying: Slice the mushrooms thinly and dry them using a food dehydrator or placing them on a wire rack in a well-ventilated area. Once fully dried, store them in an airtight container.
  2. Freezing: Blanch the sliced mushrooms in boiling water for a few minutes, then plunge them into ice-cold water to halt the cooking process. Drain and pat dry, then store in freezer bags.
  3. Pickling: Clean and slice the mushrooms, then simmer them in a vinegar brine with spices of your choice. Once cooled, transfer them to sterilized jars and refrigerate.

When it comes to cooking boletes, they are best enjoyed sautéed in soups, stews, or pasta dishes. Be sure to cook them thoroughly to enhance their flavour and reduce potential gastrointestinal discomfort.


Mushroom resources and links

Mushroom Guidebook

Mushroom Identification sheet (FREE Download)

myBackyard Pages

myBackyard Posts

External links and books

Birch Bolete

When: August into September

Where: Under or near Birch trees

Distinguishing features: Brown Capped Bolete growing near Birch Trees, white to buff stem with dark wolly “scales” noticbly coarser near ground.

Cap: Various shades of Brown to reddish brown. Convex.

Gills: Pores, not gills, off white/ beige and do not instantly change colour when bruised, will brown gradually.

Flesh: White, slightly pink when cut.

Identifiable: Where it grows, pores, cap shape/colour and scabs on the stem and staining when cut.


Boletus cf. edulis (King Bolete “ish”)

When: August into September

Where: Under or near conifers. Occasionally in mixed hardwoods.

Distinguishing features: Orangish brown Capped Bolete growing near conifer trees, white to brown stem with reticulation near attachment to cap.

Cap: orangish brown. Convex.

Gills: Pores, not gills, pale yellow to olive.

Flesh: White, firm , unchanged in colour when sliced.

Identifiable: Where it grows, pore colour, cap shape/colour, no scabs on the stem and no staining when cut.


Mushroom rules

Never eat a mushroom you are not 100% sure of its identification. Even when 100% sure, only ingest a small amount as some people have reactions to normally edible mushrooms. Always cook them first.

The underside of mushrooms are its gills. They are typically fragile blades, some have spines/”teeth”, some are more ridges, some are pores and others have no gills at all.

Spore print mushrooms – place the cap, gills down on a piece of white AND a piece of dark paper for an hour or two. This will tell you the colour of its spore print.

Stay away from young “button stage” mushrooms and older, bruised or damaged mushrooms.

Where does the mushroom grow? On wood? Mossy forest? Hardwood? Softwood?

How does the mushroom grow? Clusters? Alone? In spaced out groups?

What time of year is it? Most mushrooms have a season, finding a fall mushroom in the spring means its not likely what you were looking for.

Start out with easier mushrooms, join groups and go on identification walks. Always ask for help with identification.

Identification and resources

It is important to identify and be sure of edible plants, mushrooms and berries in the wild. There are numerous resources available however nothing is better than going with an expert and growing your knowledge over time.

Pictures and videos are very important and a simple google search (images) will return a wide range of a specific plant you are looking for.  There are numerous Facebook groups as well, where the users are usually more than happy to help identify something. Simply upload a good quality picture (or 3 or 4 from different angles) and see what the collective consensus is.

Keep in mind that no one can identify by picture alone 100% of the time.

Mushroom identification Facebook Group

Common Bolete Species in Northwest Ontario

Here are some commonly found bolete species in Northwest Ontario, along with their key identifying features:

1. King Bolete (Boletus edulis)

  • Cap: Brown to dark brown, convex to flat
  • Pore surface: White to yellowish, bruising brown
  • Stem: Thick, white to brown with a reticulated pattern
  • Edibility: Highly prized for its taste and texture

2. Red-Capped Scaber Stalk (Leccinum aurantiacum)

  • Cap: Bright orange-red, convex
  • Pore surface: White to grey, bruising black
  • Stem: White to grey, covered with dark, scaly projections (scabers)
  • Edibility: Edible and tasty, but proper cooking is necessary to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort

3. Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus)

  • Cap: Yellow-brown to dark brown, slimy when wet
  • Pore surface: Yellow, bruising brown
  • Stem: Yellow with brownish spots, a distinctive membranous ring near the top
  • Edibility: Edible, but not highly regarded due to its slimy texture

4. Blue-Staining Bolete (Boletus pseudosensibilis)

  • Cap: Reddish-brown to yellow-brown, convex
  • Pore surface: Yellow, bruising blue rapidly
  • Stem: Yellow with red to brownish spots or reticulation
  • Edibility: Edible, but may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals


myBackyard is for recreational purposes only. Plants, mushrooms and berries cannot be 100% identified through this website alone. It is up to the reader to properly identify plants, fungi and trees. Some wild plants, berries and mushrooms are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. Even those listed as edible may cause adverse reactions in individuals.

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