Thursday, August 1, 2013

Brighten up a Rainy Day with Some Chanterelles

A chanterelle found in Auburn, AL.  I'm calling this one a smooth chanterelle (Cantharellus lateritius) because the ridges (technically false gills) are shallow.   This was a very mature specimen, and it these were the most distinct false gills we saw all day. We found other species too.
      When this month of rain started, I was really excited.  My garden was getting free water, lakes and ponds that needed water filled, and the dry ground readily absorbed water.  However, after a month and a half of rain, the situation didn't look so well.  My garden was suffering from overwatering and mildew, creeks were flooded, and the ground was saturated.  Many folks I knew were ready for a break.  On the other hand, Brian Folt and I were looking on the bright side.  Literally.  We went out one after noon to look for a few species of brightly colored, edible* mushrooms known as chanterelles.  I believe we found three species, but there is some confusion about this group, so I am curious what others think.
      First let me begin by saying I don't think we found any golden chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), and I don't think many others around town have been finding them either.  I suspect people have been confusing smooth chanterelles (C. lateritius and C. confluens) with Golden chanterelles (C. cibarius).  Golden chanterelles have very distinct false gills, and are more yellow in color (although color is not the best indicator of species) as opposed to the smooth chanterelles which are more orange in color and have less pronounced false gills, or lack them altogether.  I have also read that very mature smooth chanterelles can develop some subtle false gills (see photo above).  However, even the most pronounced false gills on a smooth chanterelle don't look like the distinct false gills on a golden chanterelle (I don't have any photos of golden chanterelles, but a quick google search should provide some pictures for reference).  I guess the subtle gills could be a result of regional variation in C. cibarius, but I doubt it.  I am curious what others think, especially those that have more knowledge than I do.  Fortunately, all three of the aforementioned species are edible*.  I wasn't worried about being poisoned, but as a biologist, I like to identify organisms properly.
      In the end I called them smooth chanterelles, although I think we found two species (if C. lateritius and C. confluens are even different).  I knew they were chanterelles because they were growing in earth (not dead wood), they had vase shapes, wavy cap margins, and they were orange.  I narrowed it down even more to smooth chanterelles because the false gills were absent or very subtle.  Additionally, golden chanterelles tend to be brighter yellow, not orange (note: color is not a good indicator of species).  I believe we found two species because some were growing in pairs, and some weren't.  C. confluens can be distinguished from C. lateritius because the former appears in pairs.

The cap of a smooth chanterelle.  They looked more orange in person.  My camera can distort colors.
Cantharellus confluens.
      The third and final edible species we found is much easier to identify.  It is the cinnabar chanterelles (Cantharellus cinnabarinus).  It has very distinct false gills, also grows in earth (not dead wood), is much smaller than other chanterelles, and is easily recognized by its cinnabar coloration.  They were very abundant.

Cantharellus cinnabarinus.
      Regardless of the species, we knew they were edible chanterelles so we cooked a nice pasta with them and dried some for later.  With this rain and warm weather continuing, there is still a chance that you will find some.  So forget about your saturated garden, your soaked shoes, flooded yard etc. and go look for some bright chanterelles in the forest.

For more reading, check out these sights that address the issue:

Part of our harvest.  Note that some completely lack false gills.
The other part of our harvest.  Photo by Brian Folt.
*Note:  It is your responsibility to correctly identify any plant or fungi that you plan on eating.  Consult a local expert and/or an accurate field guide.  Do not eat any wild plant or fungus unless you are 100% sure of its identity.


Nancy Smith Weber and Alexander H. Smith. A Field Guide to Southern Mushrooms. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Michigan. 1985 pp.61-64.

Kuo, M. (2003, June). Cantharellus cinnabarinus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

Kuo, M. (2011, February). "Cantharellus cibarius": The chanterelle. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

Kuo, M. (2011, February). Cantharellus confluens. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

Kuo, M. (2011, February). Cantharellus lateritius. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:


  1. Chris, great post and thank you for taking the time to talk about false gills!


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.