Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca - False Chanterelle

Family: Hygrophoropsidaceae [E-flora]

"Summary: The principal fieldmarks are the orange to brown cap and stem, decurrent gills that are orange and dichotomously forked, and white spore deposit. It is common in the Pacific Northwest. Some authors consider Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca a member of Paxillaceae. Collections were examined from BC, WA, OR, ID, and also NS, ON, QC, SK, AK, CA, MA, ME, MI, NC, NH, NM, NY, TN, Mexico, France, and United Kingdom, (Bigelow(6)). The distribution includes north temperate parts of the world and Australia." [Jepson]

"Odor: mild, mushroomy, (Phillips), mild (Arora)." [E-flora]

"Taste: 'mushroomy (Phillips), unpleasant (Corner), mild (Bigelow)." [E-flora]

"Spore Deposit: white to creamy (Arora), white (Miller)." [E-flora]

Similar Species

"Chanterelles can be somewhat similar but Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca group is less robust, the cap browner and less wavy or frilled, the flesh flimsier, the gills thinner, crowded and blade-like at maturity and usually oranger than those of the chanterelle, and the growth sometimes on rotten wood. |Omphalotus olivascens (Jack O''Lantern) is somewhat similar. It is rare in the Pacific Northwest (recorded from OR), has olivaceous as well as orange colors, has less prominent forking of gills, and grows on hardwood, usually in clusters: it may be one reason for reports of poison reactions. |Hygrophoropsis rufa, according to Holec(1), is a rare species at least in Europe, has been differentiated by macroscopic and molecular data, and may be commonly misidentified as H. aurantiaca. H. rufa differs from H. aurantiaca by the orange-brown to dark brown cap surface in the former and yellow-orange to red-orange cap in the latter. Observed differences in spores in the Czech Republic, being slightly smaller and thick-walled in H. rufa, have to be confirmed using a larger set of collections. The 10-90 percentile of spore measurements were 5.6-6.4 x 3.6-4.4 microns in a H. rufa collection and 6.4-8.0 x 4.0-5.2 microns in three collections of Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca. Measurements by Reid were 5.0-5.75 x 3.0-3.75 microns for one collection of H. rufa, saying that the spores were possibly smaller than those of H. aurantiaca. However, measurements by Knudsen and Taylor overlap more - 5.0-6.5(7.0) x 3.0-4.0 microns for H. rufa and 5-7 x 3.5-4.5 microns for H. aurantiaca, and the group of H. aurantiaca is known for large variability in spore size. Thicker spore walls were also mentioned by Knudsen and Taylor. |As well as paler taxa (H. pallida (Peck) Kreisel, H. aurantiaca f. albida (Fr.) Gillet), there are other dark-colored taxa in the Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca complex including 1) H. fuscosquamula P.D. Orton (whitish cream or pale yellowish ochraceous cap with numerous olive-brown to sepia small fibrillose squamules), 2) H. aurantiaca var. nigripes (Pers.) Kuehner & Romagnesi with black brown stem but cap that is colored like H. aurantiaca, and 3) Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca var. atrotomentosa Jaccotet with a dark brown cap which may be the same as H. rufa. (Holec(1)). It is not clear which of these taxa may occur in the Pacific Northwest. |See also SIMILAR section of Cantharellus formosus, Craterellus tubaeformis, and Tapinella panuoides." [E-flora]

"Defining features for Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca include the repeatedly forked, orange gills; the soft cap surface; the white spore print; and the dextrinoid spores. It is found on the ground, often near rotting wood, under conifers." []

"Comments Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca is recognized by an orange to orange-brown, finely tomentose, thin-fleshed cap, brightly colored, dichotomously branched, decurrent gills and white spores. It is often abundant in Bay Area parks, where wood chips are used as mulch, less so in natural woodlandsThe common name suggests confusion with Cantharellus cibarius, but the yellow chanterelle is much fleshier, has blunt ridges rather than true gills, a smooth, not tomentose cap surface, and is terrestrial, not lignicolous. Omphalotus olivascens, the Jack O'Lantern fungus, a toxic species, is also sometimes mistaken for Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca. It, however, is also more robust, is colored yellowish-olive rather than orange to orange-brown, and has gills that lack the characteristic forked branching pattern." [Mykoweb]

"The typically bright orange, decurrent, dichotomously forked gills (see color plate) and white spore print are the principal field marks of this attractive but variable fungus. In spite of its common name, it is difficult to confuse with the true chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) if the following is kept in mind: the gills are thinner, crowded, and bladelike at maturity (but often blunter when young), and are usually oranger than those of the chanterelle. In other words, the false chanterelle has "true" gills while the true chanterelle has "false" gills. Also, Hygrophoropsis has flimsier flesh, a browner cap, is less robust, differently shaped (not as wavy or frilled) and sometimes grows on rotten wood. The jack-o-lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus species) are also similar, but have brightly colored flesh, typically grow in clusters on or under hardwoods, and do not have forked gills. The false chanterelle was originally placed in Cantharellus, and is listed in many mushroom books as Clitocy beaurantiaca, but the forked gills, frequently off-centerstalk, and dextrinoid spores connote a closer kinship to Paxil/us. Other species: H. olida(=Clitocybe morganii) is a small (cap 1-4 cm) species with a pinkish cap and stalk (that may fade to buff), whitish to pinkish gills, and a flagrantly fragrant odor that is reminiscent of root beer or cinnamon candy. At least some of its gills are forked and/ or have cross-veins, its stalk can be central or off-center, and its spores are white and dextrinoid. Like H. aurantiaca, it favors conifers and is widely distributed, but seems to be rather rare. I have seen it only once in California, near Mount Shasta, in June." [MushDemyst]

Habitat / Range
solitary, scattered or in groups or tufts "in humus and on rotting wood, usually under conifers", (Arora), late summer and fall (Bacon)." [E-flora]

"Solitary, scattered to clustered on woody debris under conifers; especially abundant on wood chips; fruiting from early fall to late winter." [Mykoweb]

"Solitary, scattered, or in groups or tufts in humus and on rotting wood, usually under conifers; widely distributed. In our area it fruits from the fall through early spring, but seems most abundant in cool, dry weather when there are few other fleshy fungi out and about. I usually find it under pine or redwood." [MushDemyst]


"avoid, as possibly poisonous according to some, (Arora), some reports hallucinogenic (Phillips)." [E-flora]

"Probably edible, but there is insufficient local experience to recommend it. It is listed as edible by some authors, poisonous by others." [Mykoweb]

"To be avoided. In my experience it is edible-but far from incredible. Some sources, however, list it as mildly poisonous (whether or not this is a result of confusion with Omphalolus. as has been suggested, is unclear)." [MushDemyst]


  1. [E-flora], Accessed March 28, 2015
  2. [] Accessed March 28, 2015
  3. [Mykoweb] Accessed March 28, 2015; November 28, 2021
  4. [USDA 2003] Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, [Accessed: 7/20/2014 11:11:28 PM]

Page last modified on Sunday, November 28, 2021 7:16 AM