The Cantharellales rule supreme

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

31/10/2015

Chanterelles - 31/10/2015, Sussex.

Chanterelles – 31/10/2015, Sussex.

It’s been a superb October for fungi…if what you were after were members of the Cantharellales. If you were hoping for something else, it’s been somewhat less impressive. Yet again, the wild fungi have demonstrated that the only thing that isn’t surprising about their behaviour is their enduring capacity to surprise.

It was a good start to the season. From late August to mid-September there was a nice selection of brittlegills, milkcaps, agaricuses and large boletes to be found – typical fare for that time of year. It was also obvious from the get-go that it was going to be a stunning year for Cantharellus cibarius – I’d seen more Chanterelles by the middle of September than I had in the last four years put together.

Horn of Plenty - Sussex, 31/10/2015

Horn of Plenty – Sussex, 31/10/2015

Then we had a period of dry, warm weather and almost everything ground to a halt. I have been waiting for the recovery ever since, and there’s still no sign of it. Trekking through the woodland of Sussex and Kent this afternoon, you’d be forgiven for thinking it hasn’t rained in weeks, at least as far as the fungi are concerned. Nearly all the major groups of fungi are absent entirely. I was out for three hours today and I saw not a single Amanita, brittlegill, russula, Agaricus, puffball, webcap, deceiver, honey fungus or oyster mushroom. And the only bolete I found was a solitary Peppery Bolete.

Wrinkled Club - late October 2015, Kent.

Wrinkled Club – late October 2015, Kent.

There are some good edible things still to be found in numbers, and they all belong to the same taxonomic Order (an order is two levels above genus – humans belong to the order “primates”). That Order is called Cantherellales, and in addition to the Chanterelles (family Cantherellaceae) it includes a variety of other fungi including the Hedgehogs (Hydnaceae) and a family of club fungi called Clavulinaceae that look entirely unrelated to the well-known Cantherellales but have recently been moved there as the result of DNA testing. One unexpected advantage to situations like this is that I go to the bother of experimenting with what is available, and it turns out that Wrinkled Club – widely dismissed as not worth collecting – is rather good to eat! Perhaps not so surprising given that so many other things in its order are considered to be delicacies.

Late October collection (31/10/2015). Horn of Plenty, Hedgehog Fungus, Winter Chanterelle, Wavy-capped Chanterelle, Chanterelle, Wood Blewit, Clouded Funnel, Scarlet Waxcap, Snowy Waxcap, Peppery Bolete.

Late October collection (31/10/2015). Horn of Plenty, Hedgehog Fungus, Winter Chanterelle, Wavy-capped Chanterelle, Chanterelle, Wood Blewit, Clouded Funnel, Scarlet Waxcap, Snowy Waxcap, Peppery Bolete.

My afternoon was rescued slightly right at the end by a trip to a local churchyard. Even here, things were not quite as you might expect for the end of October, but there were at least a few other things – a patch of Wood Blewits, another of Clouded Funnel, and few scattered waxcaps where last year there was a carpet.

So what on earth is going on? I have no idea why it is such a special year for the Chanterelles and their allies, but one thing this group tend to have in common is that they are slow growing and long lasting. That this was going to be a classic year for them was already decided long before the weather turned unseasonally warm and dry in mid-September. They also last for a long time once fruited, so the large numbers of Chanterelles, Horn of Plenty, Hedgehogs and Wrinkled Clubs were already growing before the weather changed. The other autumn fungi fall into two categories from where we currently are – the late summer and early autumn species, which had already fruited their hearts out by mid-September, and the later autumn species which hadn’t even got going. And even though November starts tomorrow, the average temperature hasn’t got low enough to trigger their fruiting. At least, that’s the best theory I can come up with, and if I am right then as soon as the temperature drops significantly there should be decent recovery, and maybe fungi all over the place.

So we must wait for the temperatures to drop, and see what happens. Unfortunately, the current long-range forecast is showing temperatures staying unseasonally high, well into November. Here’s a prediction: this mushroom season will see a second peak in the third week in November…

6 thoughts on “The Cantharellales rule supreme

  1. Zoe Tyssen

    HI, we went out in West Sussex today and found what we think are winter chanterelle. They have the veins like golden chanterelle rather than true gills and are thinner and taller and have yellow stems. They are brown on the top and beige underneath and I can’t see any poisonous lookalikes in my books and searching on line. Are there any poisonous mushrooms that could be mistaken for winter chanterelle? We have found golden chanterelle and hedgehog mushrooms in the same area (and they were delicious!) Thanks.

    Reply
  2. admin Post author

    Hi Zoe

    “Golden Chanterelle” is a wrongly used name (wrongly by quite a lot of people). There is a rather rare mushroom called Cantharellus aurora (literally “golden chanterelle”). I think you just mean a Chanterelle (Cantherellus cibarius). Golden chanterelles don’t have much in the way of gills – they are almost as smooth as black trumpets.

    Yes, there are quite a lot of things that people mistake for winter chanterelles, but there is not much of a history of people poisoning themselves after believing they’d found winter chanterelles. They are one of the easier ones.

    Geoff

    Reply
    1. Zoe Tyssen

      Hi Geoff,

      Thanks. You’re right, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do mean cantharellus cibarius.

      Maybe rather worryingly having just admitted I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve been and picked a load of what I believe to be winter chanterelle. I know they tell you not to identify wild mushrooms just by looking in books and on line, but I don’t Know any local experts! looking at lots of good quality photos from different websites these do seem fairly easy to identify (I think!). I find photos much more helpful than the bad drawings in some of my books. I’m using my books to tell me how to take a spore print etc.

      Zoe

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        Yes some drawings in books are pretty awful. If you email me a photo of your mushrooms I can tell you if they are winter chanterelles, although as I said, and you have worked out, this is one of the easier species to get right.

        Reply
  3. Ben Sander

    Thanks for a great day’s foraging at Little Gate Farm today. The winter chanterelles and horn of plenty went down a treat in a mushroom pasta dish tonight!

    Reply

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