Wild Chanterelles And Their Look-a-Likes

Wild chanterelles are truly a beautiful sight to see in early June until early July here in the Atlanta area. Not only do they add color to the forests and woodlands but they are also a gourmet’s delight.

I recently meet a young couple, however, that became violently ill after eating what they believed were wild chanterelles. Unfortunately, none of the “wild chanterelles” were kept for identification purposes. When picking and eating wild mushrooms of any kind, always save a few for later
identification in case there is a toxic reaction. The following describes a number of mushroom species that could be mistake for chanterelles. I do not recommend eating any wild mushroom unless you personally can identify them.

Common Name: Golden Chanterelle; Chanterelle:
There may be as many common names for Cantharellus cibarius as for Boletus edulis. From the French we have chanterelle and from the German we have Pfifferling. Chanterelles vary in size, stature, color, and fruiting habits but are usually defined by its yellow-orange cap and “primitive” decurrent, sometimes forked, gills. There are a plethora of look-a-likes that include the false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), waxy caps
(Hygrocybe flavescens has adnexed to sinuate gills), Lueucopaxillus albissimus, Gymnopilus spectabilis, Hypomyces lactifluorum (the Lobster Mushroom is parasitic on Lactarius and Russula), and the Jack O’ Lantern (Omphalotus illudens). Aside from the many variations within C. cibarius, there is C. formosus that is an eastern conifer lover with a convex, yellow to brownish cap and pinkish gills and is edible. Cibarius simply means food.

Cantharellus cibarius (Fries)Cap Width: Up to 5 inches
Stalk Height: Up to 3 inchesCap: Convex to flat with a depressed center, becoming vase-shaped with an uplifted, lobed or wavy margin; golden orange to egg-yoke yellow-orange, paler with age; surface smooth.
Flesh: Thick, firm, whitish or tinged yellow to orange, odor fruity like pumpkins or apricots, taste somewhat peppery,
occasionally bitter.
Underside (Fertile surface): Thick, well-spaced to close ribs or folds with blunt edge, shallow, fold-like, deeply decurrent gills that are often forked to cross-veined; colored like cap or paler.
Stalk: Thick, equal or tapered downward, sometimes enlarged at base, solid, dry, firm, color like cap or paler, often staining ochraceous to orange brown.
Spore Color: Creamy or yellow.
Habitat: Gregarious in groups of 2 or 3 on the ground in woods in broad-leaved (oaks) and conifer woods; mycorrhizal; summer to fall.
Edibility: Edible and choice

Common Name: False Chanterelle:
The False Chanterelle is considered a “look-a-like” of Cantharellus cibarius because of its blunt, forked gills and similar color. Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca typically has bright orange, decurrent, dichotomously forked gills and a white spore print. Dichotomously fork gills are a type of branching in which the gills divide into two equal parts, so that it produces a fork of approximately equal branches more or less uniformly distributed under the cap. This is not true for C. cibarius that have forked “gills” randomly distributed around the underside of the cap. It is said that true chanterelles have “false” gills and false chanterelle have “true” gills. Aurantiaca means “orange-colored.”

Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (Wulfen; Maire)
Clitocybe aurantiaca (Wulfen; Fries)
Cap Width: Up to 4 inches
Stalk Height: Up to 4 inches

Cap: Convex at first, becoming flat to depressed in the center, or shallow vase-shaped with an incurved margin that is seldom wavy; orange to orange-brown or sometimes yellow-brown; surface smooth or downy, dry.

Flesh: Thin, soft, brownish orange; odor and taste not distinctive.
Gills: Long, decurrent, crowded, thin, repeatedly dichotomously forked; yellow-orange to bright or dark orange.
Stalk: Central or eccentric; equal thickness; color of the cap or paler; tough; surface dry, velvety; often curved.
Spore Color: White
Habitat: Single to scattered or gregarious groups or tufts on humus rich ground or rotting wood, needles, or other debris of various conifers, especially spruce; August-November.
Edibility: To be avoided since it is mildly poisonous causing gastrointestinal distress.

Common Name: Jack O’ Lantern:
The Jack O’ Lantern sometimes occurs in large clusters in lawns and grassy places from the roots of trees whose remnants are no longer visible. It can be distinguished from Chanterelles since it has sharp-edge true gills rather than blunt gill-like veins beneath the cap. Chanterelles rarely occur in clusters of more than 2 or 3 fruiting bodies and are egg-yolk yellow. The gills of fresh Jack O’ Lanterns are luminescence and will glow
in the dark with an eerie greenish color. Illudens means emitting light.

The Jack O’ Lantern also occurs at the base of dying or dead trees and tree stumps.

Omphalotus illudens (Schwein)
Clitocybe illudens (Schwein)
Cap Width: Up to 7 inches
Stalk Height: Up to 8 inches
Cap: Convex at first, becoming flattened or shallowly depressed with age, with or without an umbo, margin incurved when young later expanding and becoming wavy; pumpkin colored from bright orange to yellow-orange becoming brownish with age; surface smooth.
Flesh: White to yellowish
Gills: Decurrent, close to moderately well spaced; colored like the cap; luminescent.
Stalk: Nearly equal, usually narrower at base; solid; central to eccentric; colored like the cap or paler; surface smooth.
Spore Color: Cream to pale yellowish
Habitat: Typically growing in large clusters, often with multiple stalk bases originating from one point; on or around well-decayed stumps (oak) or from decaying underground roots; saprobic; summer to fall.
Edibility: Poisonous. Symptoms manifest themselves 15-30 minutes after ingestion and are focused on the involuntary nervous system. Profuse sweating, excessive salivation, tears, plus severe vomiting and diarrhea are typical symptoms due to the toxin muscarine. The victim usually recovers within 24 hours but in severe cases, death may result from respiratory failure.

The photograph to the right shows the sharp-edge gill structure of the Jack O’ Lantern.

Planter And Leaf Mold Tuffas

The basic materials for casting planter tuffas and leafmoldings are the same: Portland cement, fine play-sand (because it is clean of debris), and water. You’ll also need a garden or cement trowel and a couple of large plastic dishpan for mixing the cement, sand, and water. In one large dishpan, you’ll need to mix some water with the sand until it can be molded by hand as if building a sand castle on the beach. In the other dishpan, you will mix 1 part Portland cement with 2 parts sand. Add water until the mixture is the consistency of thick frosting.

Portland cement comes in 40 lb. bags. They can be resealed after use. Play-sand comes in 40 lb. bags that are easily stored for future use.

For a casting planter tuffas, select a mold in the design of your finished product. It can be a simple bowl, tub, or other suitable casting object. It can be as large as you desire but remember that the larger the object, the heavy it will be. Some tuffas are 3 feet long and weigh more than 50 lbs.

Selecting a mold for a planter is merely a question of size and shape. Dollar stores have a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The exterior of the tuffas can be rough or smooth. The cement-sand mixture can be colored with a dry dye or left to a natural gray. It is also possible to finish them with paint or a stain.

Leaf-moldings are the most intricate of tuffas (cement moldings), but can be used in a wider variety of applications…tuffas make great year round outdoor planters.

For the leaf-molding tuffas, select a waxy texture that has a simple outline. Elephant Ear leaves make wonderful molds that can be used as birdbaths, plant holders, or just yard art in a flowerbed. The possibilities are limited only by ones imagination and the ease of construction and finish make these moldings ideal for the beginner as well as the advanced crafter and artisan.

Getting Started
Mound up moist sand on a flat surface that is sufficient to fill the inside of the selected mold for the tuffas planter. This will provide support the select mold and prevent it from collapsing. Remove any excess sand from around the mold. You’ll want the table to be clean of sand before applying the cement-sand-water mixture.

Apply a 1-inch thick cement-sand-water mixture to the outside of the mold. For extra strength on large objects, apply a mixture that is 1 to 2 inches thick. Cover the cement mixture on the mold with a wet cloth for at least 24 hours. Then remove the cloth and allow the cement mixture to dry for 4 days or more.

In finishing small planter-tuffas, provide drainage by drilling a small hole in the bottom of the tuffas mold. Cement drills are inexpensive and work well. Do not apply excessive pressure when drilling the holes or the tuffas may fracture. With large tuffas, several holes may be required.

Leaf-moldings are handled much the same. Mound the moist sand to give the leaf a natural trough-effect. (Important: Place the leaf with the pronounced veins turned upward on the mound of moist sand. When the cement-sand-water mixture is applied over the leaf, the veins will provide a pronounced pattern in the cement. These veins can be accentuated when finishing the leaftuffas.)

Apply about a 1-inch thick layer of the cement-sand-water mixture to cover the leaf. Use care to follow the shape of the leaf to give the finished molds the look of the actual leaf. Cover the leaf-mold with a moist cloth for about 24 hours and then let it air dry in the open for about 4 days. After 4 days, lift the dried cement leaf tuffas off the sand mound. The leaf will stick to the inside of the tuffas. The dry leaf remnants can be pealed away or scrubbed away with a brush.

The vein pattern will be embedded into the cement and there should be a small amount of cement bordering the outside of the leaf shape.

The leaf tuffas can be decorated as desired. Green is always attractive while the veins can be painted a lighter green or cream to resemble a caladium. The paints are available at most craft stores. Apply a finishing coat of clear-coat polyurethane varnish to act as a weather sealant.

There are some safety practices that should be observed.

  • Wear a dust-mask and eye protection when mixing the cement-sand-water mixture.
  • Wear gloves when applying the mixture to the mold to prevent the hands from drying out.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area due to dusty conditions that can be encountered.

If you have any questions, call or email Jan Bailey.

A Bit of Dirt – Spring 2009

The full pdf copy of this edition is available here.

Editor’s Cuff Notes – by Dan Willis.

I enjoy living in a woodland setting. I have slowly grown accustomed to seeing quite a few deer around my home. The quiet, graceful movements, the big brown eyes, the gentle flick of its white tail, all reassure me that there still is a place for wild things in the surrounding environment.

One February morning I woke to find 7 does and 3 bucks browsing in my backyard. Two of the bucks were eight pointers with nice symmetrical racks.

This spring, a doe gave birth to a single fawn in a little visited part of my front yard. It was fascinating to watch the little guy or gal struggle to follow mama around the yard.

It seems that many of the deer in my neighborhood have lost their fear of people and cozy right up to my back door. I usually see them enjoying a leisurely meal in my garden at either dawn or dusk. I know that their “home” territory is seldom more than a square mile or two but I don’t  encourage them to think that “home on the range” means my yard. I don’t always appreciate that they view the plants in my yard as their personal salad bar.

Deer browse on tender shoots, twigs, and leaves of about 500 different trees, shrubs, and garden plants. A dense thicket of native trees and shrubs are a deer magnet.

If you wish, you can invite deer onto your property with deer friendly habitat but be realistic. Once having discovered a free meal ticket, they are certain to take advantage of your hospitality.

An adult deer consumes up to 10 pounds of food each day. Multiply that by 10 deer and you are talking about some serious damage to the landscape plants in the garden. When preferred foods are scarce, deer become very indiscriminate will eat just about anything.

To keep the deer away from my hydrangeas, I enclosed that part of my garden with a wire fence. I allow the deer to come up to the fence, look, and drool.

Since deer can be quite a nuisance in my garden, I have planted a lot of plants that deer usually find unpalatable such as Daffodils, Lily of the Valley (Convallaria), Foxglove (Digitalis), Snowdrops (Galanthus), Colchicum, and many others. For more information on deer tolerant plants, visit the Gwinnett Cooperative Extension office.

Other articles in this issue:
Planter And Leaf Mold Tuffas – By Jan Bailey
Wild Chanterelles And Their Look-a-Likes – By Dan Willis