Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tennis Bolete (rare sighting)

During a quiet early morning run I spotted this Tennis Bolete which is very rare nowadays:
Tennis Bolete (Boletus Tennitus Vondelparki var. nabokovii)
It only appears aboveground briefly after a thunderstorm in the late days of winter when the first budding signs of spring and the last snowflakes are competing in a flurry.

Actually, the bolete is just the fruit of a much bigger organism of mycaeleae stretching its fine hairs for up to 300 yards below the surface of the ground where it coexists with ancient trees, feeding the roots with sugars in exchange for the cellulose compounds it needs to sustain itself.  In dry weather, the fine hairs (invisible for the untrained eye) floating around the bolete can be hazardous for people with sensitive lungs, but by then most of the boletes have vanished already.

These boletes used to be common and in the last century they were mostly left untouched. Servants of the upper class would sometimes come and collect them as they were used in a game on squared off lawns. The boletes, if dried expertly in virgin state would bounce gracefully from one 'racket' to the other. This did not harm the bolete population because the social game helped the pollen to be expelled from the boletes and as the game was played mostly in sunny weather, wind would help the spores drift away and the bolete would find new places to settle and grow.

Nevertheless, as the game got popular and masses of common folk also started collecting for themselves, the bolete all but disappeared and is rarely seen in parks today.

Another shot, from the top. Here the bolete is already deteriorating.
Picture taken near the (undisclosed) finding place. The specimen was spotted in a location which is not open to the public.



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