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Quick facts

Common names: penny bun, king bolete, porcini, cep

Scientific name: Boletus edulis

Family: Boletaceae

Fruiting season: summer to autumn

Habitat: broadleaved and coniferous woodland, wood edges and grassy clearings

What does penny bun look like? 

A chunky-looking mushroom with a cap that really looks like a well-baked bread roll. It is edible and highly sought after by the food industry and can weigh a kilo or more when mature. Its average height is 25cm.

Cap: the cap looks like a crusty bread roll; it is brown and dimpled with a paler edge, 8–25 cm across.

Gills/spores: underneath the cap, gills are white, with fine pores that age to yellow then turn green and spongy. The spore print is green/brown.

Stipe (stalk): the stem is thick and swollen, pale brown with a white network pattern on the upper part.

Not to be confused with: the similar-looking bitter bolete (Tylopilus felleus) and bay bolete (Imleria badia). It’s not poisonous but it tastes awful and has a slightly darker stem covered with a lighter, net-like mesh. Also, the poisonous Devil’s bolete which has a bright red stem but is very rare.

Penny bun mushroom in leaflitter

Credit: David Chapman / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to find penny bun

Penny bun is fairly common in the UK. It prefers woodland with oak, beech, birch and coniferous trees, especially open ground – particularly wood edges and grassy clearings.

Value to wildlife

It is a popular food for red squirrels, slugs (including the scarce lemon slug Malacolimax tenellus), several species of mushroom fly, as well as other insects and their larvae.

Penny bun fungi on woodland floor next to pinecone

Credit: Laurie Campbell / Alamy Stock Photo

Mythology and symbolism

In folklore it is said that the best time to hunt for penny bun and other ceps is when it’s a full moon.

Uses of penny bun

One of the most sought-after wild mushrooms, with a fine flavour and texture. It is highly prized by the food industry, which dries them and uses them as a flavouring for soup. They offer a number of health benefits, including natural antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and are a rich source of fibre as well as being low in calories and saturated and unsaturated fat.

Each mushroom can weigh as much as a kilo when mature. However, a huge specimen collected on the Isle of Skye weighed in at 3.2kg. The best time to pick penny bun fungi is a few days after summer rain. Unfortunately, if you leave it longer than that the mushrooms are likely to be maggoty, though some people don’t mind just removing the maggots before cooking the ceps.

Did you know?

They are called porcini (little pigs) in Italy, cep (trunk, because of the fat stem) in France and Steinpilz (stone mushroom) in Germany