What You Should Know
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 woodlands. The 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.
Defining features for Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca include the repeatedly forked, orange gills; the soft cap surface; the white spore print; and the dextrinoid spores.
Although this doesn't look much like a chanterelle, it is often similarly colored and the true gills it has are decurrent (run down the stipe). Compare this species to a true Chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus) and one can easily see that true Chanterelles do not have gills but blunt ridges.
An interesting feature of this species is that the gills increase in number as they run out to the cap's edge by branching rather than there being smaller gills placed between gills that run the entire radius.
Other names: False Chanterelle.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca Mushroom Identification
Saprobic, decomposing forest litter and woody debris; usually found under conifers; occasionally growing from well-rotted wood; alone, scattered, or gregarious; summer and fall (and overwinter in warm climates); widely distributed in North America.
4-8 cm across; convex, becoming broadly convex, flat, or shallowly depressed; dry; very finely velvety and soft to the touch; the margin initially inrolled; color variable, ranging from orange to brownish orange or, in age, brownish-yellow; often with a browner center and an "oranger" margin.
Running down the stem; close or crowded; repeatedly forked; pale to bright orange; soft.
2-5 cm long; up to 1 cm thick; often somewhat off-center; more or less equal, or somewhat swollen toward the base; colored like the cap, or paler; discoloring brownish; bald or very finely velvety; basal mycelium white and copious.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca Look-Alikes
Characteristics typically used in the field to distinguish Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca from lookalike species include the soft, dry consistency of its cap; the crowded, decurrent, and forked gills that are saffron to orange-colored; and the lack of any distinctive taste or odor.
The false chanterelle can be distinguished from the true chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) by its deeper orange color, brown base to the stipe, velvety cap surface, forked gills rather than gill-like ridges, softer (and thinner) flesh, and lack of the characteristic apricot-smell.
The cap surface of Hygrophoropsis fuscosquamula, found in Britain, has fine brown scales overlaying a dull orange background.
H. rufa has velvety brown fur covering its cap, while H. macrospora has cream gills and stipe. Microscopically, these three species have larger spores than H. aurantiaca. H. tapinia, found in a range extending from southern Florida to Central America, is set apart from H. aurantiaca by its growth on or under deciduous trees (never conifers), and smaller spores, which measure 3.3–4.8 by 2.5–3.3 µm.
Formerly a member of Hygrophoropsis, Aphroditeola olida is also similar in appearance to H. aurantiaca but can be distinguished from the false chanterelle by its smaller, pinkish fruit bodies and candy-like odor. It also has smaller spores.
Chrysomphalina chrysophylla has a yellowish brown cap and unforked yellow gills. Cortinarius hesleri, an eastern North American species that associates with oaks, has a rusty brown spore print and a cortina in young specimens. The poisonous jack-o'-lantern mushrooms (genus Omphalotus) comprise another group of lookalikes; however, they have straight, non-forked true gills.
The European wood-rotting species Haasiella splendidissima, sometimes confused with H. aurantiaca, is most readily distinguished from the latter by its pink spore print and gills that do not fork.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca Taxonomy and Etymology
When in 1781 the Austrian priest and naturalist Franz Xaver Freiherr von Wulfen (1728 - 1805) described this mushroom he gave it the binomial name Agaricus aurantiacus. It was the French mycologist René Charles Joseph Ernest Maire (1878 - 1949) who, in 1921, transferred this species to the genus Hygrophoropsis, whereupon it acquired its currently accepted scientific name Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca.
The genus name Hygrophoropsis means resembling Hygrophorus. (The suffix -opsis comes from Greek and means 'similar to'.) In shape, wood waxes (Hygrophorus species) and the False Chanterelle are indeed somewhat similar, but wood waxes have broad gills which are, as the name suggests, waxy. If you are unfamiliar with wood waxes, Hygrophoropsis hypothejus, commonly called the Herald of Winter, is a typical example. The specific epithet aurantiaca is a reference to the orange coloring of the False Chanterelle.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca Synonyms
Agaricus aurantiacus Wulfen
Merulius aurantiacus (Wulfen) Pers.
Merulius nigripes Pers.
Agaricus subcantharellus Sowerby
Cantharellus aurantiacus ß lacteus Fr.
Cantharellus aurantiacus var. pallidus Cooke
Clitocybe aurantiaca (Wulfen) Stud.-Steinh.
Clitocybe aurantiaca var. albida (Gillet) Rea
Clitocybe aurantiaca var. lactea (Fr.) Rea
Clitocybe aurantiaca var. nigripes (Pers.) Rea
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca var. aurantiaca (Wulfen) Maire
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca var. nigripes (Pers.) Kühner & Romagn.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca var. pallida (Cooke) Kühner & Romagn.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca var. rufa D.A. Reid.
Agaricus alectorolophoides Schaeff. (1774)
Cantharellus brachypodus Chevall. (1826)
Cantharellus ravenelii Berk. & M.A.Curtis (1853)
Merulius brachypodes (Chevall.) Kuntze (1891)
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca Video
All photos were taken by the Ultimate Mushroom team and can be used for your own purposes under the Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.