Economic Botany

, 62:356 | Cite as

California Porcini: Three New Taxa, Observations on Their Harvest, and the Tragedy of No Commons1

  • David Arora
Special Mushroom Issue


California Porcini: Three New Taxa, Observations on their Harvest, and the Tragedy of No Commons. Seven species of California porcini (Boletus, sect. Boletus) are recognized, including three new taxa that are culturally and economically significant: B. rex-veris sp. nov., B. regineus sp. nov., and B. edulis var. grandedulis var. nov. The three new taxa have been intensively gathered during the last century by Italian immigrants, and B. rex-veris sp. nov. more recently by southeast Asian immigrants as well as by long-time rural residents. B. rex-veris sp. nov. is restricted to inland mountains while the other two are widely distributed, and are abundant in California’s heavily populated coastal zone. In the 1990s, reflecting the preservationist policies of mainstream environmental organizations, many park authorities and land management agencies in coastal California closed public lands to mushroom gathering. Organized attempts to establish legal, limited gathering in a few parks were almost entirely unsuccessful. The result is that it is illegal to pick porcini on nearly all public lands over a 6,000-square-mile area, even though they grow prolifically in coastal California. Many of coastal California’s porcini are picked anyway by those willing to risk being apprehended and fined. In response to the official intolerance for mushroom gathering, an entire generation of mushroom hunters has grown up practicing the activity in secret.

Key Words

Boletes California mushrooms coastal California commons environmentalism king boletes mushroom harvest mycorrhizal associations park policy porcini public land management wild edible fungi. 



I am extremely grateful to Giampaolo Simonini for contributing his considerable expertise on European boletes to the taxonomic portion of this paper. I am also grateful to Dennis Desjardin of San Francisco State University for making available for study SFSU’s extensive herbarium collection of boletes, and to Mike Amaranthus, Herman Brown, Freddie Menge, Eric Schramm, Hugh Smith, and Chris Sterling for kindly contributing voucher specimens that they just as easily could have eaten. Dennis Desjardin, Jim Trappe, Rebecca McLain, and Dan Moerman offered valuable suggestions for the manuscript and Trappe kindly provided the Latin diagnoses. Francisco Camacho was generous enough to share his unpublished molecular data on western North American boletes, and Bryn Dentinger shared valuable insights from his ongoing work on the same subject. I am also grateful to John Feci, Heidi Horvitz, Lorenzo Simi, and all the others who consented to be interviewed, and who provided valuable information and insight into the history of porcini harvest in California.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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