Cap and stem mushrooms with soft sponge-like pores are commonly called boletes. Mycologists organize them within genera that are defined by their shared characteristics and genetic relationships. In the the distant past they were called ‘polypores’ and given the genus name ‘Polyporus.’ As early naturalists studied more fungi, they came to distinguish true polypores, which are generally tougher and longer lasting, from boletes - which are soft-pored and short-lived. In both general types of fungi, the pores are the openings of tubular structures in which spores are produced, mature and released. The soft-pored boletes, many of which stain flesh and other parts on exposure to air or due to handling, were designated as belonging to the genus ‘Boletus’.

Over the centuries, mycologists have through observation, chemical testing, and now DNA analysis - differentiated the soft-pored mushrooms into numerous families, genera, and species - each defined by specific characteristics. Some of these include Boletus, Leccinum, Tylopilus and Xanthoconium among many others. These are in the ‘Boletales’ order, and in the ‘Boletaceae’ family. Other soft-pored mushrooms that resemble and look similar to fungi within the Boletaceae family include mushrooms in the Boletinellaceae, Gyroporaceae and Suillaceae families.

Also related to the sponge-pored mushrooms are numerous fungi organized into several families within the Boletales order that have completely different physical characteristics: some have gills, some are jelly-like, some are ‘puffballs’ and others are crust-like. They include fungi in some of the following families: Diplocytaceae, Gomphidiaceae, Hygrophoropsidaceae, Paxillaceae, Sclerodermataceae, Serpulaceae, and Tapinellaceae. These will be treated within their respective morphologically defined categories. To see enlarged versions of the northeastern fungi represented in each of these families in the Boletales order and brief descriptions of their characteristics, click on the first photo and then click on the textual links above each photo to get to the next one.