Good evening, friends,
This week's mushroom is the false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca). This is a mushroom I've seen a few times in the past couple months, both up in the Catskills and then while I was hiking last weekend in Fahnestock State Park. This is a good mushroom for all of us to know, and specifically for people interested in foraging since it bears a close resemblance to chanterelles. We'll look at how you can differentiate between the two and why you might be inclined to eat these anyway.
The edibility of the mushroom is debated. Some folks eat it no problemo, but some eat it and report toxicity/hallucinations. The folks that report toxicity could also be eating a similar species, Omphalatus illudens, that has a festive common name quite appropriate for next week's edition of MM. Had I known at the time of my encounters about the questionable edibility, I would've certainly been tempted to do the field research myself. Then you throw in the potential for hallucinations to escape this vapid existence - who says no?
There was a study published in 2019 (Reference 2) that showed compounds derived from the fungus, specifically the compound ergosterol, possessed the potential to combat cancer. Ergosterol peroxide, derived from the fruiting bodies of H. aurantiaca, demonstrated anti-proliferative properties against human colon cancer cells in vitro (in a lab setting, not in a human body). Ergosterol is named after the ergot fungi that grow on rye and similar plants, the same ergot fungi from which Albert Hoffman synthesized LSD. Perhaps these hallucination rumors could be substantiated after all...
Taxonomically, the mushroom falls into the Order Boletales which mean's it's more closely related to the spongy, pored boletes than other gilled mushrooms. There are also five genetic variations of H. aurantiaca that have different physical traits, but are still genetically the same species. This makes some sense to me because when I found these mushrooms in the Catskills (seen above and below) they were much larger then the mushrooms I found while hiking last weekend and I initially thought they were different species. In fact, there is a H. aurantiaca var. nana that has a characteristically small fruiting body, while H aurantiaca var. robusta allegedly has a larger fruiting body that also smells like ramen.
The greatest similarity between this mushroom and true chanterelles are the forked gills. The false chanterelle has dense gills that split into two, and sometimes then even divide again, as they radiate out toward the edge of the cap. I'm experimenting with new technology to stack images side by side for a better comparison. The false chanterelle is below on the left and a true chanterelle is on the right. You can see the gills are deeper and run decurrent down the stipe to a fixed point on the false chanterelle, where as on the true chanterelle the ridges - not gills - divide once near the edge of the cap, but are less pronounced and even rubbed away at some points where bugs may have sampled the morsel.
H. aurantiaca is saprobic and grows on dead organic material (particulary dead hemlock wood when I encountered it last weekend). This differs from true chanterelles which are mycorrhizal (the fungus forms an association with tree roots) and grow out of the soil. False chanterelles grow late summer into the fall in the northeast, but can also be found in temperate woods throughout the northern hemisphere The iNaturalist map of recorded observations can be seen below.
The Fungus Festival yesterday was a blast. Thank you to Sigrid, Sneha, and the rest of the New York Mycological Society for cultivating a wonderful environment where people could learn about mushrooms and share their passions & interests together. If you weren't able to come, there's a clip of my presentation here, and you can scroll through the rest of the NYMS instagram to see some other events that took place throughout the day. Gabriela was able to capture and send over a nice photo from my Sunday sermon.
I mentioned it a little bit yesterday, but I'm looking at 11/6 for a MushroomMonday foray in Central Park. There's some rain forecasted in the next couple weeks and hopefully that will give us some fresh fall fungi. More specifics as we get closer to the date. Hope to see you then,
1. Kuo, M. (2015, March). Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hygrophoropsis_aurantiaca.html
2. Nowak R, Drozd M, Mendyk E, Lemieszek M, Krakowiak O, Kisiel W, Rzeski W, Szewczyk K. A New Method for the Isolation of Ergosterol and Peroxyergosterol as Active Compounds of Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca and in Vitro Antiproliferative Activity of Isolated Ergosterol Peroxide. Molecules. 2016; 21(7):946. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules21070946