I love to feature all the lovely wild edible mushrooms I find (when I get the precious time), but every so often I have to include those annoying ‘look-a-likes’ so that we can all be aware of and be prepared for such party poopers!
The False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) is a very common and strikingly colourful mushroom, predominantly found in small to large groups, mainly in coniferous woodland. They can also be found on heathland too.
Although this mushroom is mainly an autumn species, I have often found it during late summer (just like the true Chanterelle) around early August, hence the reason I’m featuring it now at the end of July.
Myself and many other people have made the same mistake in thinking their luck was in – “Chanterelles – Fantastic”. Oh, how wrong we were. The Chanterelle (Chantharellus cibarius) has the same fruiting season (including late summer), habitat (as well as deciduous woods) and general size and appearance.
And as always, the devil is in the detail when distinguishing between the two. Size-wise, they can be very close, but other feature differences would seem quite obvious if you had either species side by side. But if you’re unfamiliar with both, then here’s what to look out for:
1. The Colour: The False Chanterelle tends to be a deeper Orange-Yellow compared to lighter egg yoke yellow of the True Chanterelle.
2. The Cap: The False Chanterelle has a fine ‘downy’ surface texture (esp. when younger). The True Chanterelle has a more distinctive ‘irregular’ wavy and lobed shape all round the edge.
3. The Gills: Although they both extend down the stem, The True Chanterelle has ‘false’ gills which are thicker and more fleshy.
4. The Smell: The False Chanterelle has a ‘mushroomy’ smell while the True Chanterelle has a very distinctive fruity, apricot-like odour.
3. Spore Print: To double check, you can take a spore print – False Chanterelle = white / True Chanterelle = Yellow/ochre.
Unfortunately, I don’t currently have any (True) Chanterelle images to show in comparison. I will add when I can at a later date of course.
The False Chanterelle has been known to be edible just like the True Chanterelle, but obviously not as superior in flavour etc. Some reference books have labelled it as harmless, but even though it isn’t deadly there have been reports from some people suffering unpleasant or alarming hallucinations. So I would recommend that nobody eat this mushroom.
And to finish, by adding confusion to the confusion, there’s are ‘look-a-like’ to this ‘look-a-like’ which I think most people in Southern Europe should be concerned about. The Jack o’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) has patchy distribution throughout Southern Europe (with rare sightings in UK and Northern Europe). Again, it looks very similar to the True and False Chanterelles but is definitely posionous. Have no fear though, these guys usually grow in tight groups on living or dead wood of deciduous trees (from the underground roots) so that rules out the others and the major feature the Jack o’ Lantern has is that it’s (mature) gills have an amazing phosphorescent property and glow very bright green in the dark. This I know only from research and I would love to find some and see the effect in action. So that’s a good excuse for a holiday in Southern Europe then aye!?
Keep your eyes out this Late summer/autumn time and I hope your Chanterelle hunting moments don’t get ruined by this naughty twin.
QUICK ID TABLE: FALSE CHANTERELLE Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca
CAP / FLESH
2 -8 cm diametrre. Convex to funnel shaped. Often inrolled at the edge (margin). Orange-Yellow.
3 – 5 cm x 0.5 – 1cm. Often curved. Same colour or darker than cap.
GILLS / SPORE PRINT
Decurrent, forked. Orange, thin and crowded.
HABITAT / SEASON
Coniferous woods, heaths. Very common. Late summer – autumn.
Said to be edible but reports of hallucinations recorded.