False chanterelles (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) resemble chanterell mushrooms (Hygrophorus). This similarity is reflected in the genus name, Hygrophoropsis, which means resembling (-opsis) Hygrophorus. The forked gills, stem (stipe) placement, which is often off center, and the generally more soft and “flimsy” nature of false chanterelles separate these two fungi in the field.
Widely distributed in North America and throughout the world, false chanterelles fruit on the ground or on fallen logs, stumps, wood chips or other decaying wood. False chanterelles secrete large amounts of oxalic acid which helps decompose wood and forest debris. It is found in coniferous and hardwood forests as single mushrooms or in groups or tufts. Characteristically, false chanterelles are abundant in the cool and drier conditions of autumn.
The cap of a false chanterelle is golden-orange to brown-orange or yellow. The margin cap is slightly rolled when young becoming wavy or lobed with age. Originally convex, the caps of older specimens are flat or shallowly depressed. Often the center of the mature cap is brownish. The decurrent (attached down the stem), forked gills are often a less intense shade than the cap. The stem or stipe is originally orangish turning brownish over time. A spore print reveals white to cream colored spores.
There is disagreement in the literature about false chanterelle edibility. Some claim they are edible, but not tasty, while others report false chanterelles are poisonous. False chanterelles (and true chanterelles) are often confused with members of the Omphalotus genus (includes the Jack O’ Lantern mushroom) by inexperienced collectors, which may partially account for their reputation as poisonous.
The species name, aurantiaca, derives from the Latin and means “orange”.
These false chanterelles were growing on a conifer stump along the Falls Loop Trail at Burney Falls State Park (CA) in November.