Midwest

American

Mycological

Information

Cantharellus species

yellow chanterelle

Yellow Chanterelle

cinnabar chanterelle

Cinnabar Chanterelle

Common name: Chanterelle, apricot chanterelle, golden chanterelle, cinnabar red chanterelle.

Description and identifying characteristics: Chanterelles are medium-sized mushrooms with species that exhibit yellow, orange, and red pigmentation. Unlike most mushroom species, they have neither gills nor pores on the underside of their caps. Instead, they have pseudo-gills, which look similar to gills, only they are blunt/rounded at the gill edge rather than sharp as in true gills, and microscopically the hyphal tissue arrangement is different. Chanterelles are terrestrial species that grow from the ground and typically appear either singly or in small clusters in the woods near trees. There are several Cantharellus species that occur in Michigan, all of which are edible.

The taxonomy of Cantharellus in the United States is currently in a state of rapid flux, as researchers have described several new species (including from the Midwest) and are currently investigating species from Michigan.

Morphology: Desirable, edible Cantharellus mushrooms in Michigan can be categorized into two general morphological groups: yellows (golden chanterelles) and reds (cinnabar chanterelles).

Yellows: Of the yellow chanterelles, there are at least 3 common species that occur in Michigan. They were formerly all considered Cantharellus cibarius, but recent DNA have elucidated over a dozen species in the United States that are all morphologically similar and have been masquerading as a single species. It is now believed that the true Cantharellus cibarius only exists in Europe.

In the Southern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, there are typically two common forms, “pale” and “yellow” (nicknamed by the color of their pseudo-gills).

Pale form

Pale Form

Yellow form

Yellow Form

While similar in size and stature, the “pales” tend to be a little more robust and thick. Both types have a cap that is egg-yolk yellow or paler (especially in direct sunlight or dry conditions). The cap starts off rounded with margins that curl inward toward the stalk. As the mushroom matures, the cap expands and flattens out and the margins start to lift, eventually becoming generally cup/funnel shaped at maturity with the center of the cap depressed.

The “pales” have a white to pale-yellow/pale-pink hymenium (pseudo-gill surface) and stalk, while the “yellows” have a yellow to orangish-yellow hymenium and yellow to pale-yellow stalk. The “pales” in southern Michigan have a white spore print, while the “yellows” have yellow spore prints. The fruiting structures of pales and yellows are similar in size, with caps typically 6-12 cm at maturity (sometimes larger), and overall height/length 8-12 cm at maturity (sometimes larger). Both have white context tissue within the cap and stalk, and the stalks are solid. The stalks typically range from 1-3 cm thick at maturity, with the “pales” typically having thicker stalks than the yellows.

Both forms tend to stain a rusty color where bruised, but the staining reaction is rather slow and can take several hours to show up. Both the “pales” and the “yellows” have pseudo-gills that are strongly decurrent (as they extend a ways down the stalk), and they often fork, splitting from one pseudo-gill into two in the direction from the stalk toward the cap margin. They also anastomose, merge from two pseudo-gills into one in the direction from the stalk to the margin.

Pseudo-gills

Pseudo-gills that fork
and anastomose

cap depressed in center

Cap depressed in center

Both of these types of yellow chanterelles can be found growing in a symbiotic (mycorrhizal—see below) relationship with trees, especially oaks and beeches. They tend to prefer well drained soils and are often found on hillsides. Both yellow types are strongly aromatic and smell pleasantly of freshly cut fruit, particularly like apricot.

In the Northern half of the Lower Peninsula, and in the Upper Peninsula, the two above-described, yellow chanterelle types appear with oak and beech, but there are also yellow chanterelles that appear with coniferous trees such as spruce, hemlock, and others. The conifer-associated chanterelles are similar in appearance, but seem to be more squat in form, and smaller in general size and stature. Previous research from outside the Michigan suggests that conifer-associated chanterelles are likely different species than the oak and beech associates. Scientists are currently investigating this. Regardless of the taxonomy, the conifer-associated Cantharellus in Michigan are edible. Rare in Michigan, there are also chanterelles similar in size to the aforementioned yellows, but they have a smooth hymenium that ranges from completely smooth, to veiny, to poorly developed pseudo-gills. These are much more common in Michigan’s neighboring states to the south such as Ohio and Indiana.

Reds: Red chanterelles look very similar to the yellow chanterelles in shape, structure, and form. They are typically smaller in size than the yellows, with caps that range from 4-9 cm at maturity, and overall height/length ranging from 5-10 cm at maturity. The stalks are typically slender compared to the yellows, and range from 0.8-1.5 cm at maturity.

Like the yellow chanterelles, red chanterelles have decurrent pseudo-gills that fork and anastomose. They also tend to have more cross-venation (ribbing) than the yellows. The caps are cinnabar red to pink, with the pseudo-gills being the same color only typically paler (and rarely almost white). The stalks, like the hymenium, are cinnabar red to pink but usually more pale than the cap. The stalks often tend to be white at the base, and the stalks are solid. The context tissue within the cap and stalk is white. The spore print color is typically pink to pale pink.

red chanterelles

Red Chanterelles

cross-venation

Cross-venation

The aromatic smell of the yellows is not as notable with the reds, but still present. Like the yellows, they grow in association with oak and beech. They have been found in both Peninsulas, but tend to be more common in the Lower Peninsula, especially in the Southern half. It is not currently clear whether there are multiple red species in Michigan, and whether the “reds” are equivalent to Cantharellus cinnabarinus. Research is underway to address these questions.

Ecology/associates host or habitat: Chanterelles are mycorrhizal, meaning they form a symbiotic relationship with tree roots. This relationship is thought to be beneficial for both the tree and the fungus. They are known to associate with both hardwoods and conifers, but some species are currently thought to be host-specific. They often fruit in the same place for several years. In Michigan, chanterelles fruit in the summer from as early as late June through the beginning of September, with the most prolific fruiting typically taking place in July. They tend to be more bountiful in seasons when the rain is plentiful. The fruiting bodies are longer-lived in the forest than most terrestrial mushrooms, and typically a bit more resistant to insects than other mushrooms (although slugs can be a problem).

Chanterelles

Chanterelles growing in a path along an oak root

Tips on harvesting/storage: Like most terrestrial mushrooms, it is good to cut these near the base of the stalk with a sharp knife to avoid the dirt clump you’d encounter by plucking the mushroom out of the ground. Brush away dirt and sand with a small brush and avoid washing the mushrooms unless absolutely necessary. Occasionally heavy rains will cause lots of mud and dirt to splash up onto the mushrooms. At this point they are very hard to clean, even with washing. Extremely dirty specimens should be left in the ground to sporulate.

Chanterelles keep fresh relatively well in the refrigerator when stored in a paper sack. While they dry readily in a dehydrator, rehydrated chanterelles tend to taste bitter and have very poor flavor compared to fresh. If they cannot be eaten fresh, the best way to preserve them is to cook them about halfway through in water and butter, and then place them in a freezer bag with the liquid (there should be enough liquid to submerge the mushrooms) and then freeze. When ready to use, thaw them out and finish cooking. This method works well.

Look-alikes: The biggest concern is toxic Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens), which are yellow-orange in color and can look relatively similar to chanterelles to the untrained eye. Omphalotus mushrooms differ in that they typically grow in large, dense clusters, and they grow from dead/dying wood. Sometimes they grow from buried wood including roots, so care should be taken to always examine mushrooms carefully. Unlike chanterelles, Omphalotus species have true gills that have sharp edges rather than the rounded blunt edges we see in Cantharellus. Jack-o-Lanterns cause severe gastrointestinal upset.

There are also a few species of Craterellus that appear in Michigan that could be mistaken for Cantharellus. This includes several species that were, until recently, considered Cantharellus, such as Craterellus tubaeformis, Craterellus infundibuliformis, Craterellus ignicolor, Craterellus xanthopus, etc. which fall under common names such as “winter chanterelles,” “yellow-foots,” “flame-chanterelles,” etc. Like Cantharellus, they often have yellow and orange tones, and decurrent pseudo-gills that fork and anastomose. One way to recognize these Craterellus species from Cantharellus is that they have hollow stipes that perforate the cap. They are also typically smaller than Cantharellus. They are edible.

craterellus species

Craterellus species with hollow stipe and perforated cap.

Current research: Current research on Cantharellus in Michigan includes addressing whether the “pale” and “yellow” hymenium chanterelles are equivalent to the recently described Cantharellus phasmatis and Cantharellus flavus from Wisconsin. Additional research addresses whether the “red” chanterelles are equivalent to Cantharellus cinnabarinus (described from the Eastern U.S. in the Appalachian region), Cantharellus texensis (described from Texas), or whether they are a morphologically similar but currently undescribed species. This research is being conducted at the University of Michigan by Matthew Foltz in association with Dr. Timothy James.

Click on each link below to view other photos of chanterelles or their look-alike.

Cantharellus cinnabarinus  |  Cantharellus cinnabarinus Large Chanterelles
Chanterelle gills  |  Jack-O-Lantern (look-alike)

References:
Buyck B, Kauff F, Eyssartier G, Couloux A, Hofstetter V. 2014. A multilocus phylogeny for worldwide Cantharellus (Cantharellales, Agaricomycetidae). Fungal Diversity. 64: 101-121

Foltz MJ, Perez KE, Volk TJ. 2013. Molecular phylogeny and morphology reveals three new species of Cantharellus within 20 meters of one another in western Wisconsin, USA. Mycologia. 105(2): 447-461.

Kuo, Michael. "Cantharellus cibarius": The Chanterelle.

Kuo, Michael. Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for July 1997.

Cantharellus cibarius at Roger’s Mushrooms

Cantharellus cinnabarinus at Roger’s Mushrooms