Fall has Fallen: Chanterelles are Popping!

Wow!  What a difference a few weeks make.

A month ago the talk was about anticipating the coming autumn mushroom season and the hope it wouldn’t be as bad as last year.   On September 8th, Seattle’s own celebrity weather professor, Dr. Cliff Mass, said “Take out your sweaters and rain gear”.  I don’t know about you, but I think I missed that transition until a few days later when we had a few days of overcast and even a little drizzle. I didn’t get my hopes up, because after some overcast and even a bit of drizzle we got just as many sunny days. Soon the overcast and occasional drizzle was more typical than not and we seemed to be settling into a nice damp Pacific Northwest autumn.

I couldn’t wait for enough moisture to bring out the fall mushrooms. By fall mushrooms most people mean Chanterelles (Cantharellus spp.)!  If the temperatures and moisture haven’t arrived  in your favorite Western Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus) hunting ground in the mountains yet, one thing to hunt for is White Chanterelles (Cantharellus subalbidus).  The “Whites” tolerate a little more warmth. One place they can be found is in low-land areas not far from water.  I have friends (and folks with whom I want to be friends) who find the whites as early as July in some years.  Wouldn’t you want them as your friends too, so you could help them harvest chanterelles in July!

I emailed a PSMS club member I knew out across Puget Sound  and set up a little mushroom walk for the equinox, the official astronomical start of fall, on September 21st.  A short drive, a ferry ride, and a couple of hours of strolling through the woods and it paid off!  I had a nice little pile of “whites” to eat.

Cantharellus subalbidus, White Chanterelle, showing a cut stipe with no evidence of bugs

A lovely clean bug-free Cantharellus subalbidus – The White Chanterelle – found in Kitsap County, WA.

It was a day later that there were more rains north of Seattle. Professor Mass noted a particularly healthy bit of rain that rolled through the Snohomish County weather convergence zone on September 22 including two inches in Monroe with zero rain in Seattle. I guess that really declared that autumn had arrived right on time.  I was getting envious of rains to the north.

A few days into the next week, I got a chance to run up the I-90 corridor and have a look around, but only spotted some flushes of what fools a lot of people with their chanterelle like colors. The False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) can catch your eye while scanning for chanterelles, but the orange gills that have some depth and are always brighter than the rest of the fruiting body gives away that it is not an actual Chanterelle.

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A Flush of Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, “The False Chanterelle”

False Chanterelle gills

Orange sherbert colored gills of fresh Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca .

On September 29th, I attended the first PSMS field trip of 2018 where I had volunteered to bring the coffee and snack supplies.  Despite being the breakfast host, I was able to get out to do some foraging.  Two cars formed a carpool and we were off in to the forest. We managed to find about a pound of Pacific Golden Chanterelles (Cantharellus formosus) per person, as well as seeing some other interesting out species.  A Pacific Golden is shown in the picture at the top of this article.  Compare the very short viens or ridges of the fertile surface of the Cantharellus formosus with the taller gills of the Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca.

The 2018 season has begun much better than 2017 with the moisture coming weeks early than last year;  It looks like it should be a great season.

The time has come; get out and enjoy the hunt.  May you fill your basket with mushrooms and your soul with adventures.

-Paul Hill
Seattle, WA