Bright orange to yellow cap with wavy margins; underside with orange-yellow, forked ridges (not true gills) that descend the stalk. Grows in soil. Late June to early August. Cap convex, becoming flat to funnel shaped, sunken in center, sometimes flowerlike; orange to orange-yellow; texture smooth. Underside orange to yellow, with narrow, thick-edged ridges that are forked and cross-veined, and descend the stalk; does not have true gills. Stalk can be curved or off-center; orange to yellowish to whitish; texture smooth; flesh is white. Spore print pinkish yellow. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth.
Lookalikes: The poisonous jack-o'-lantern (Omphalotus illudens) grows clustered on stumps or buried wood, has close, sharp-edged gills, and fruits in the fall. The hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) has a toothed underside. The smooth chanterelle (Cantharellus lateritius) is smooth on the underside.
Cap width: ½–6 inches; stalk length: 1–3 inches; stalk width: ½–1 inch.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows singly or in groups of up to many in moss, leaves, and grass, on paths, and under oaks. It can appear in the same spots for years. The habitat for both the golden chanterelle (this species) and the smooth chanterelle (Cantharellus lateritius) is the same, and both are equally delicious. In Missouri, we see more of the smooth chanterelle.
A choice edible mushroom—with caution. Take care not to confuse chanterelles with the poisonous jack-o'-lantern. Chanterelles are best preserved by sautéing in butter with a little onion and freezing in plastic zip bags. This is probably the most popular edible mushroom in the world. Some people think chanterelles smell like apricots.
This species is mycorrhizal: It exists as a network of cells (mycelium) connected to fine tree roots, in a symbiotic relationship with the tree (but not growing on wood). This species is particularly associated with oaks. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the mushroom, which is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced under the cap and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.
Chanterelles are especially prized for their culinary value and are found on almost every continent. "Chanterelle" and "girolle" come from the French; both names are used in English. Germans call it "pfifferling," the Italians "finferli," and the Russians "lisichki."
This is one of the many fungus species that help nourish forest trees through a symbiotic connection with tree roots: The netlike fibers of the fungus multiply the roots' ability for absorbing water and nutrients. In return, the tree shares nutrients with the fungus.
Mushrooms are a lot like plants, but they lack chlorophyll and have to take nutrients from other materials. Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are in a different kingdom — the fungi. Fungi include the familiar mushroom-forming species, plus the yeasts, molds, smuts, and rusts.
Always be cautious when eating edible mushrooms. Be absolutely sure of the ID, and only eat a small amount the first time you try it to avoid a reaction..