Pacific Northwest

My Favorite Edible Mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest
Information provided, i.e. for habitat and seasonality apply to the Pacific Northwest from a Seattle perspective.
[Please do not solely rely on my descriptions and my photos for identification. In case you are not familiar with a mushroom, ask somebody who has survived his or her fungal forays and is familiar with the species you are intending to consume.]
A virtual misidentification can have real consequences....
My "Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific NorthwestBuy here
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Early Morel   Verpa bohemica


 

Shaggy Parasols - Chlorophyllum rachodes, C. brunneum C. olivieri.

In the Pacific Northwest grow three tall, edible Chlorophyllum species: Ch. rachodes, Ch. brunneum and Ch. olivieri.
In the past these three were all identified as Macrolepiota and clustered under M. rachodes. However, DNA analyses has shown (Vellinga 2002/2003) that these fungi are more closely related to Ch. molybdites than to Macrolepiota procera, the Parasol.
Some people have very unpleasant allergic reactions to eating these superb mushroom.
 That's why it is not available in trade. Best is to start out with a few bites to see how your organism relates to the ingestion of this organism, and if everything is fine to really enjoy the shaggy parasols the next day.  
 
Chlorophyllum olivieri (Barla) Vellinga     Gray Shaggy Parasol 

Most striking of this big, beautiful and very tasty mushroom is the scaly cap, which it is named. Shaggy Parasol move through a "drumstick" phase, before the mushroom opens to an umbrella, hence "parasol", the French name coined for its big and more famous cousin Lepiota procera, which is not widely distributed in the PNW yet. Drumsticks can be turned magically into umbrellas by inserting the stipe in a water-filled glass of after collection. Umbrellas are easier to fry.

You can find the Shaggy Parasol in spring and fall in nearly all forested parks and many back yards in the suburban PNW. This patch is in my yard under a Douglas fir, another one under a true cedar.
I hold the Shaggy Parasol as the PNW most abundant and tasty backyard mushroom.

Chlorophyllum brunneum Vellinga  Brown Shaggy Parasol
A spring fruiting of the Brown Shaggy Parasol - Chlorophyllum brunneum in St. Edwards Park, Bothel WA. Photo: April 22, 2006
Fall fruiting of Gray Shaggy Parasols - Chlorophyllum olivieri (=Macrolepiota / Lepiota olivieri) in my back yard under a Douglas fir, Kirkland WA. Photo: 9-9-2008

 The flesh of all three PNW Shaggy parasols stains quickly orange-red when bruised (see scratched area on stem on the pulled specimen to the left). The orange-red will fade to brown after awhile. The slender stem [length 10-20 cm / 4-8 in.] is hollow and has a ring that can be moved around once the mushroom is older and dryish. The stem base of the Shaggy parasols is bulbous [and in the case of Ch. brunneum abrupt]. Usually such wide stem bases should ring your alarm bells, since it is typical for the Amanita genus, which contains some of the deadliest mushrooms. In addition, this Chlorophyllum is white-spored, just like the Amanitas are. However, these deadly Amanitas do not stain orange red, nor are they scaly.

There are three tall [15-25 cm / 6-10 in], edible Chlorophyllum species, such as Ch. rachodes, Ch. brunneum and Ch. olivieri. In the past these three were all identified as Macrolepiota and clustered under M. rachodes. However, DNA analyses has shown (Vellinga 2002/2003) that these fungi are more closely related to Chlorophyllum molybdites than to Macrolepiota procera.
Chlorophyllum molybdites [growing in Hawaii] is a very similar, tall, light-green spored species that causes extremely unpleasant, but at least non-lethal poisonings in climates with hot summers or in the tropics or subtropics. So far the Green-spored Shaggy parasol has not been reported in the PNW, but be very careful collecting shaggy parasols in warmer areas.

Also, be aware that there are similar looking small  [height and cap diameter below 10 cm/4 in.], Lepiotas, some of them even deadly.

If you have identified this mushroom positively and you know that you will not react adversely as a few people do, you can enjoy a nice meal.  Like most mushrooms, they need to be cooked thoroughly before consumption. I love to fry them gills down in butter until they turn light brown, flip them shortly and then put them on a toast with herb butter and a thin slice of parmiggiano. They can be used in many other preparations, they have a strong, gamy taste, very umami [=savory]. They can stand up to a generous amount of garlic. In Slovenia I learned to use them as a pizza base, yummy!
Chlorophyllum rachodes (Vittad.) Vellinga   White Shaggy Parasol 

Note the light whitish cap color, which sets Chlorophyllum rachodes [formerly Macrolepiota rachodes (Vittad.) ] apart from Chlorophyllum olivieri. The bulbous stem base that is not abrupt as in Ch. brunneum. These specimens were encountered in a park lawn in Bothel WA. Nov 2, 2010.

[a key to differentiate these three similar shaggy parasols can be found at http://www.svims.ca/council/Chloro.htm]
Agaricus augustus  Fries  The Prince 
Lilith introducing a charming young Prince to her father. Everybody loves his rich aroma of marzipan [=almond].
Kirkland WA, June 20, 2008 © Daniel Winkler
That's how suburban Princes present themselves in their prime. Full 25 cm (10 in) across! Not a single worm! The still pinkish gills, which soon will turndark brown just were exposed. The skirt-like partial veils clearly visible. Also very typical is the scaly, reddish brown cap
Redmond WA, October 5, 2008 © Daniel Winkler
The Prince is definitely one of the best edible mushrooms. The almond aroma is just awesome and it makes it easy to identify this Agaricus, supposing one knows how to recognize the genus. Many other Agaricus species are really hard to identify to species level.
For years I searched without success for the prince, since I was clueless about its fruiting season. I looked for the prince during the fungal fall flush. However, the prince likes it warm and needs a bit of rain. So, in western Washington it fruits usually between May and September, in mild years into October. Most patches fruit twice a year, in late spring or early summer before the typical summer draught and late summer or early fall, before it gets too cold. I never found it out in the woods, only in man-made environments. It is actually quite abundant in suburbia, but you have to beat the worms to it. So once I find one I check my other patches. Often it grows in sterile landscaped areas, like barked beds and areas under conifers, preferably in apartment building complexes.
Most of my dozen or so patches in Kirkland I have spotted driving by - "I break for mushrooms". Its big size, caps can reach 12 in (30 cm) across, really helps for "remote detection".

A basket full of princes, Kirkland WA, September 2004
© Daniel Winkler

On the left, Agaricus moelleri, the Flat-topped Agaric, formerly known as A. praeclarisquamosus. Not only is the old name a mouthful, but you do not want to put this Prince impostor in your mouth, since Agaricus moelleri is regarded as poisonous.

They are not badly poisonous, might even be used medically as a laxative or purgative. I am just joking here, there is no medical research for this application, but they had me glued to the loo for 30 minutes. Arora wrote that a few people seem to be able to eat this mushroom without problems, and I learned I liked the taste, but did not like the consequences. It should have a bit of a phenolic / chemical smell when scratching the stipe base, which should also be detectable when cooking it, but does not have to have that unpleasant odor.

This is the most abundant Agaricus in the Seattle area. Often it fruits later than the Prince, but sometimes also side by side. However, the Prince (Agaricus augustus) is almond scented and has a more reddish look than the cold, grayish tone of Agaricus moelleri.

Short descriptionLarge, fleshy mushroom; cap covered by minute blackish-brown scales. Free, close gills, young pallid to pinkish turning chocolate brown. Whitish stem with big ring, stem base when cut staining yellow, odor mild or phenolic, taste mild to metallic or phenolic,
I like to eat the prince raw in a salad or just with a bit of balsamico and parmiggiano, very tasty. But frying them up works just fine too. When the gills get too dark in mature specimen, the dish will look better when the gills are being scratched off with a knife blade before frying [Gills from all Agaricus species typically turn from pale white and light pink to dark brown with the maturing of the spores.]

After all this praise comes the bummer. Agaricus-species are specialists in concentrating heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, a well known capacity in myco-remediation [mushrooms used to clean up toxic sites by concentrating toxic pollutants]. Now, suburban princes can easily have their share of lead, especially collected along a road. Remember the days when lead was used in gas. Research from the 1970s in Germany showed that mushrooms on regular soils can reach cadmium concentrations a multiple of cadmium polluted sea food. A recommendation from the German Mycological Society (see the DGfM advisory) suggest to limit consumption of wild mushrooms to a half a pound per week. However, recently I came across a reference that suggested heavy metals in fungi are not really soluble and thus toxicity would not be this great an issue. Got to find the science behind that assuring statement. If anyone has any references, please let me know.

 
Looking under the "kilt" of the Prince. The partial veil is about to rip. Once separated from the edge of the cap it hangs skirt-like down from the stipe. Also, note the pink gills and the scaly stem; all important characteristics of the prince. Kirkland WA, October 5, 2008
© Daniel Winkler

"Prince Imposter" -  Agaricus moelleri - Not edible
Agaricus moelleri, a.k.a. A. praeclarisquamosus, the Flat-topped Agaric, an inedible species common in suburban areas on the West coast. Kirkland WA, October 5, 2008  © Daniel Winkler
Lepista nuda ( (Bull.: Fr.) Cooke    Blewit
A Blewit found in Tibet
The Blewit is a saprotrophic fungus, feeding of decaying biomass, thus its sites are quite unpredictable. The sites I have collected from are often good for a year or two, maybe three years and then the biomass might be exhausted. But next fall other Blewit hordes will pop up in a range of unsuspected places, like in meadows and mixed forests and in parks and yards.

Being a saprotrophic mushroom, cultivation has succeeded and some high-end stores are selling Blewits. However, since they are still imported from Europe one has to spend $20 to $30 a pound and that seems over-prized to me.
 
The Blewit (Lepista nuda or also Clitocybe nuda) is one of the latest fruiting good edible mushrooms here in the Pacific Northwest. It appears from fall into early winter, mild frosts seem to rather stimulate its fruiting than to terminate it.

For beginners this mid sized mushroom is not so easy to identify. First step is looking for purplish mushrooms and there a more than one would expect, especially Cortinarius has a range of bluish mushrooms, some like C. alboviolaceus are very similar, but have amongst other subtleties brown spores . And sometimes the purple of this mushroom with asmooth cap and in-rolled margin when young can be in the red spectrum, sometimes more bluish and sometimes more dull and brownish. Thus the color alone is not that reliable. For me personally the fruity odor that comes closest to the smell frozen orange juiceconcentrate was a very important character for feeling safe with the ID. But better check also for the stout, veil-free stem with purple mycelium threads on the base. The spores are pinkish.

Very bluish Blewit growing in the duff of a Pacific Red Cedar in Kirkland WA, Nov. 16, 2009

Marasmius oreades  (Bolton: Fr.) Fr.  Fairy Ring mushroom 

Marasmius oreades, the fairy ring mushroom is distributed in lawns all over the northern hemisphere (North America & Eurasia). It is a choice edible. It is not the easiest mushroom to identify in the beginning being, since it is one of the informal and infamous group known as LBMs, little brown mushrooms.

Marasmius oreades is light brown, the umbonate central disc of the cap is a bit darker brown when young, and turning paler when aging. The edge of the cap tends to be undulate when the cap expands. The photo above shows the change through the different development stages nicely. It is white spored and its gills are fairly well-spaced and broad while being white to pale tan. A very helpful ID tool is its pliable stem. When I am unsure if it is a fairy ring mushroom, I first check the stem pliability. If it breaks easily, there is no point in pursuing further identification.  Also helpful is the fact that the fairy ring mushroom is limited to lawn habitats andthat it reoccurs on the same site year after year.

Just make sure that the lawns have plant diversity including weeds and moss. A lawn without weeds often indicates,application of chemicals, which very well might be concentrated in the mushroom and you better don't eat them. Some people manage to confuse this mushroom with the "Sweater", Clitocybe dealbata, which is a poisonous muscarine-containing mushroom that will give you amongst other symptoms nasty sweats. Usually the Sweater is white, funnel-shaped and has fully decurrent gills.
 © Photo Daniel Winkler, June 3, 2006, Kirkland WA

 A small basketful of fairy ring mushrooms. Marasmius oreades pops up in my lawn several times a year. It fruits as early as April, again during summer, if there is enough water and as late as November. The grass where myMarasmius grow is the only lawn in my yard that I water. The lawn is clearly disturbed where the mycelium grows, but the mushrooms taste much better than the grass.

 Although it is a bit tedious to pick, since it is quite small and usually plentiful, it is absolutely worth it. I always have to go on my knees armed with scissors before lawn mowing.

It is has a rich nutty taste and dries easily and is reconstitutes quickly. If I only pick a few mushrooms I dry them and add them to the jar full of driedMarasmius. They are perfect to add into sauces without needing long reconstitution time. The could be explained with the unusual capacity ofMarasmius to fully revive when there is moisture available again after having dried out completely.

Also, I love to caramelize them by frying them in butter and sugar and then using these fairy caramel caps by sprinkling them on salads.

© Photo Daniel Winkler, June 3, 2006, Kirkland WA

 

Coprinus comatus  (O.F. Muell.: Fr.) Pers Shaggy Mane 
Shaggy manes are easy to identify with their conical to bell-shaped white caps (2-5 in / 5-12 cm in height) with big white scales, hence "shaggy mane". The whole mushroom itself can reach over 12 in (30 cm), but normally grows to 8 in (20 cm).  If you plan on frying up this delicious mushroom you must act fast. It is best to collect young specimen (as depicted on the left) and their is no point in collecting mushrooms whose caps are already turning black. Once the mushroom has reached maturity, the cap with its crowded gills blackens quickly and deliquesces. The whole cap turns into a black ink-like liquid, stained by the black spores.
In fall shaggy manes are often found along trails and roads, in lawns, flower beds, and near composts attesting to their saprophytic nature. They also fruit in fields and pastures. More than once I have not taken home shaggy manes I found since their habitat right along a major road did not look like my idea of a healthy source for feeding my family. Thus, before collection it is recommended to check that the habitat is not polluted by pesticides, fertilizers or other toxins.   
For centuries shaggy manes were grouped together with other ink caps, but recent DNA studies revealed that this spore dispersal strategy developed parallel in several fungal groups and to reflect their different evolutionary path two new genera were erected: Coprinopsis and Coprinellus. Coprinopsis now contains among others Coprinopsis atramentaria, the ink cap, which was formerly known as Coprinus atramentarius, Coprinellus includes Coprinellus micaceus, erstwhile Coprinus micaceus, the mica cap.
 
Sparassis radicata  Weir   The Western Cauliflower Mushroom 

Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon 10-23-2010 © Daniel Winkler

Sparassis radicata grows near the base of a host conifer tree, often Douglas firs. It is connected to the root system by a single underground stalk. There are not too many individuals out in the woods, but when one is lucky enough to find one, that will be good for several meals. The cauliflower mushrooms fruits in the same location for many years with one individual in late fall. Joe Ammirati suggests  to leave the base when collecting for food, so that it will fruit the next year.

They are easy to spot once you find the host tree again. However, I seem not often to find the host trees again or rather get beaten to it by someone else.
 
The western Cauliflower mushroom is often listed as Sparassis crispa (Wulfen) Fr. Although Sp. radicata was described by Weir in 1976 for growing on PNW Douglas fir, consecutive mating and culture test challenged the erection of a new species different from the Cauliflower mushroom distributed on the East Coast and in Europe. Thus Sparassis crispa remained in use, however more recent phylogenetic studies confirm that the Western Cauliflower mushroom is distinct from  Sparassis crispa (Wang et al. 2004).

Bridal Trails State Park, Bellevue WA - Oct. 4, 2005 © Daniel Winkler
 
Sparassis radicata, the  Western cauliflower mushroom, is one of the easiest mushrooms to identify (not that this would mean that people who don't bother to really check, would not manage to confuse this mushroom with a coral fungus or a pile of egg noodles).
 
Source: Wang Z, Binder M, Dai YC, Hibbet DS 2004. Phylogenetic relationships of Sparassis inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial ribosomal DNA and RNA polymerase sequences.  Mycologia, 96(5), 2004, pp. 1015–1029. 
Pleurocybella porrigens   (Pers.) Singer     Angel Wings


Pleurocybella porrigens Angel Wing Mushroom
A flock of Angel wings, Pleurocybella porrigens growing on a moss conifer trunk near Gold Creek, Washington, October 4, 2009, © Daniel Winkler
Angel wings are of course bright white as one would expect from a mushroom bearing such a name. However, its decurrent, white gilled cap is not feathered at all, but lovely smooth. And like any Angel wing, its base (or stem) is laterally attached. It always grows on decaying wood, usually fallen conifer trunks in very shady moist sites in fall.

Often these winged angels congregate in big groups and picking them takes some patience. They are much smaller than oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), your best bet for confusing white, laterally attached, wood growing mushrooms.

Angel wings are quite tasty, not that I would drive 30 miles to pick them, but they have saved in a most enjoyable way several mushroom dinners when no chanterelles were hopping in the basket. Pleurocybella porrigens was regarded as a choice edible and quite safe for its relatively easy identification, but then came fall 2004, when 13 Japanese Angel wing devourers were ferried off to heaven by real angels after eating these lovely mushrooms. Supposedly all these poor fungophiles had a previous kidney disorder.

However, no one in the Pacific Northwest has to anyone's knowledge suffered from eating Angel Wings, to the opposite, most people really enjoy these beautiful little mushrooms.
 

 Lactarius rubidus (Hesler & A.H. Sm.) Methven    Candy Cap
 
Lactarius rubidus Pacific Northwest
Candy caps (Lactarius rubidus) are one of these elusive mushrooms due to the difficulty of identifying them. As the name suggests they are renowned for their candy like taste. You might think, "well what's so hard to recognize sweetness in a taste". Unfortunately there is no sweetness to detect when you find them fresh in the forest. Candy caps only reveal their true nature after carefully drying them, carefully means a slow low temperature drying as most mushrooms appreciate anyways. And just then you will catch a whiff of their maple syrup-like aroma. When fresh you just can detect a subtle burned odor, which is not apparent to every nose. Talking about lack of intensity in odor, unfortunately that also applies to the maple syrup aroma after drying. Our Pacific Northwest version is just not as pungent as the California oak-associated relative, whose odor once dried will fill any room and add a very special flavor to any desert or cookie. This unusual quality - at least when it comes to fungi - is the source for the fame of the Candy cap and a price for over $100 per pound. I usually keep a few California specimen in my coat pocket to sniff them for enjoyment. Even if they went through a laundry cycle and the dryer they still keep their aroma for years to come.  Photo: © Daniel Winkler, Port Gamble WA Nov. 2, 2013

 How to identify a candy cap?

Candy caps are smallish mushrooms, normally not growing bigger than 1 to 4 inch wide caps. The hollow stem is very fragile, as indicated in the old name of Lactarius rubidus which was Lactarius fragilis var. rubidus. As typical for Milk caps, the members of the genus Lactarius, Candy caps have a latex, a milk-like liquid that oozes out when breaking or cutting them. The latex of candy caps is quite watery and whitish, whey-like and does not turn color upon exposure to the air. The taste of Candy caps is mild - there are plenty of peppery and acrid tasting Milk caps around. For me to be sure detecting the burned aroma is crucial in the woods. Candy caps are often associated in the PNW with Douglas fir, growing on well decayed wood. Also they seem to like an extra nutrient input of some fallen leaves of alder or maple. They can grow in big groups of easily dozens of specimens. They usually fruit late in the season.

Thanks to Josh Birkenbach for taking me to his Candy Stop.
November 13, 2007 Suburban King County
Lactarius rubidus
 
 
 
 
Tricholoma magnivelare  (Peck) Redhead American Matsutake or Pine Mushroom 
American Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) lined up along its host tree. Being an ecto-mycorrhizal fungus matsutake will fruit for many years in the same location.  Once you smelled this mushroom, you should be able to identify it blindfolded. The stem base of these Matsutakes (Tricholoma magnivelare, formerly aka Armillaria ponderosa) is always growing out of the volcanic ash layer omnipresent in the cascades.
 © Photo Daniel Winkler, Oct 2008, Breitenbush, Oregon




Often, not only young matsutake, but mature ones as well are quite difficult to spot since they are covered by duff.  This matsi clearly shows a tendency to exhibitionism, but with the restrain typical to matsutake.
© Photo Daniel Winkler, Oct 2008, Breitenbush, Oregon
 
A rare triple stemmed matsutake. At first there was not much visible of these beautiful mushrooms. Often, not only young matsutake are very hard to spot since they are completely covered by duff.  The American matsutake is namedmagnivelare for its big partial veil, meaning big sail.
© Photo Daniel Winkler, Oct 2008, Breitenbush, Oregon


 
 Boletus edulis Bull.    King bolete (Porcini, Steinpilz, Ceps etc.)

Cascades Mountains, Eastern King County, WA, 8-18- 2007
© Daniel Winkler
A typical Pacific Northwest's King bolete (Boletus edulis) growing in mountain forest in the Cascades.  At some point this kingly bolete might receive its own scientific name. It is paler than many other king boletes described as Boletus edulis. However, from a culinary perspective this beautiful and big mushroom tastes just as delicious as any other Boletus edulis. Many connoisseurs regarded this mushroom as the best, something I wouldn't argue about. I just love the nutty taste and consistency of this impressive mushroom.
 King boletes can reach impressive sizes!
Once they are so big and the worms
haven't hollowed them out, it is
best to slice them up and dry them.
Frying up such a king can be disappointing, since the flesh is not firm anymore.
Bolete Hunting
Bolete hunting in Western Washington is much harder than Chanterelle hunting. Strangely king boletes are basically absent in the lowland forests, maybe it is too wet. However, rarely they occur in suburbia. More common is Boletus fibrillosus, which is much darker and has finely fibrous cap. Unfortunately, every time dining on B. fibrillosus I detect a lack of the strong nutty king bolete taste. Actually, the lack of aroma made me realize that I didn't have the king on my plate.

To find king boletes one has to search mountain conifer forest, according to UW mycology professor Joe Ammirati, at least above 1000 ft. They grow up to treeline. Also crucial is the timing. King boletes like it warm and wet. They fruit in the mountains when there are summer rains. So in many years when July, August and September are dry, there are very few boletes fruiting. When the rains kick in in October, often it is already too cold. In regard of seasonality, king boletes seem similar in their weather-based fruiting patterns to the Prince (Agaricus augustus), which also fruits during the summer after rains. So instead of having to drive into the Cascades to find out if boletes are out, I watch for the fruiting of the Prince in suburbia.

As the old fungal beau-mot states I just made up:

"When the Prince is following the summer rain,
high in the mountains the King will reign"
 This is how successful bolete hunters pose for a tripod in the absence of quality control supervision. All these kings we found within 300 yards of our campsite in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest between Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in the South of Washington State, just North to the Columbia Gorge.
 
Boletus rex-veris  Arora & Simonini  Spring King Bolete
The Spring King (Boletus rex-veris) resembles the King bolete (Boletus edulis) quite a bit. It is also a big bolete with a smooth cap, which is light brown to reddish brown. When young the cap has a white "dusting", known as bloom. The tubes are small and white, turning yellowish and green with age. The stem is massive, wider at its base, cream-colored when young and turning brownish with age. It has a whitish network on its surface, known as reticulation, typical for most members of the Boletus genus. It has a mild, nutty taste, very firm flesh and is a choice edible mushroom! Often it grows clustered, a rare feature in theBoletus genus. It does not stain blue and as the name indicates it fruits in spring in mountain conifer forests, usually feeding of snow melt.
© Daniel Winkler, May 19, 2012. Eastern Yakima County, WA
 An older Spring King with darkened stem (on the left) found late in the season.
 
© Daniel Winkler, Western Chelan County, June 28, 2011., WA



 Boletus barrowsii Thiers & A.H. Smith  Barrows Bolete
Boletus barrowsii or whatever bolete we find under introduced deciduous trees is usually associated with oaks (Quercus spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.). hornbeams (Carpinus spp.) and linden (Tilia spp.) here in the Pacific Northwest. Normally B. barrowsii is regarded as native to the southwestern region of the US, where it is associated with Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). In the Seattle are it fruits through summer and in early fall [before it gets too cold] whenever there is enough rain, but irrigation systems sometimes free this mushrooms from the uncertainties of weather.  
Steve Trudell & Joe Ammirati (after Gibson's Matchmaker) state, "Generally considered to occur only in the Southwest. In Seattle, a very similar mushroom is fairly common in late spring under oaks and species of Tilia, such as lindens and basswood. Although it was felt that this had to be a different species, preliminary DNA analysis suggests it is very close to B. barrowsii."


Boletus barrowsii has a whitish to grayish cap with suede-like texture. Its pores are white when young, do not bruise blue and turn light brown-yellowish when old. The stem [with a reticulated upper part] ranges from whitish to grayish and can be darker than the cap.
It is a choice edible mushroom, and I prefer its firm and aromatic flesh to our endemic mountain Boletus edulis, which is one of my absolute favorites.

Both pictures: © Daniel Winkler, September 2010, Seattle area, WA

Porphyrellus porphyrosporus  (Fr. & Hök) E.-J. Gilbert
 
Porphyrellus porphyrosporus is a rare and very dark bolete with a dry velvety cap. Actually our West Coast version has been turned into a variety: Porphyrellus porphyrosporus  Talking about it, I have eaten it without any ill effects, since its European cousins are listed as edible. However, I think it is too rare to use it as an edible and it does not taste as good as a true porcini anyway. 
Seen in Thurston County Oct. 13, 2007 near a spruce tree
 
This mysteriuos bolete is included here, because there are only few Pacific Northwest images on the net. In the past it has also been named Porphyrellus pseudoscaber & Tylopilus pseudoscaber.
 
        Leccinum scabrum (Bull.) Gray   Birch Bolete 
A birch bolete growing next to the birch tree in our yard. It seems like every suburban birch (Betula sp.) has its birch boletes. October is the prime month for picking suburban birch boletes. Size matters, you want to pick the smaller mushrooms. When they are still young and firm they are quite excellent. Once they get older, they become too mushy for my taste, but they still would improve soups or could be dried. The old pores are better removed and placed under another birch. Who knows? It might spread the mycelium. © Daniel Winkler, Kirkland WA 9-29-2009

Birch boletes are easy to identify. First find your neighborhood birches, then look for fungal activity around them. The dingy brownish bald cap, white pores, which turn brownish grayish when old and especially that scaly white stem are important features. The black sabers on the stem gave this bolete-relative its name, the genus Leccinum is recognized by its scaly stipe. There are not many mushrooms to confuse it with when one picks a white pored, brown capped, blacked scaled stemmed bolete under a birch tree. However, under aspen and maroons are other species ofLeccinum, some of them causing digestive upset.

Two prime young birch boletes (Leccinum scabrum). Note the dense scales and the white pores.  © Daniel Winkler, Bothel WA, Oct. 17, 2008.
 
© Daniel Winkler, Kirkland 10-17-2008
A collection of birch boletes from a few yards in Finhill laid out around the root of a birch.


 
Cantharellus formosus  Corner      Pacific Golden Chanterelle 
Cantharellus formosus Pacific golden chanterelle 
A patch of freshly popped still small Golden chanterelles (Cantharellus formosus) encountered in the Cascade foothills East of Seattle. It can take Chanterelles weeks to grow to full size like the specimen on the right. Chanterelles can grow and persist for a very long time. The Oregon Chanterelle study observed one Pacific Chanterelle living for nearly two months! 9-13-2013 © Daniel Winkler
 

What a haul! Collecting all these chanterelles was the easy part. It only took 3 hours. However, cleaning all these chanties and cooking them in order to freeze them kept us busy on many evenings the following two weeks. We really learned we do not need to pick all the chanterelles we can gather, only because they are out there. It is fine to leave many behind. 
 
A giant specimen of Cantharellus formosus on the side of a small chanterelle.  Compare the size of this chanterelle to the hemlock and Doug fir needles or the leaves of Salal (Gaultheria shallon). The Golden chanterelle is the most abundant of all coastal chanterelles in the Pacific Northwest. There is no other places on this globe that offers a comparable chanterelles bounty as does the Pacific Northwest. This is Chanterelle heaven, no doubt! Eastern King County, WA, Oct. 24, 2007 © Daniel Winkler

My daughter Lilith is showing some good-sized chanterelles. The chanty in her left displays that strange frizzed look some chanties fall for. Oct. 2004 © Daniel Winkler

Cantharellus cascadensis  Dunham, O'Dell & R. Molina     Cascade Chanterelle 

Both Photos: Breitenbush Hot Springs 10-23-2010 © Daniel Winkler

Cantharellus cascadensis is one of the three big PNW chanterelles. It grows in a similar habitat as C. formosus, the Pacific chanterelle. In shape it is closer to C. subalbidus, the White chanterelle, but its cap color is closer to the Pacific chanterelle. However, the cap of the Cascade chanterelle is often brighter yellow than the cap of the Pacific chanterelle and its stipe is club-shaped or widens at the base, where as the stem of the Pacific chanterelle usually is narrowing or at least equal at the base. Another important and quite reliable characteristic is the thin margin of C. cascadensis. Thom O'Dell told me that before C. cascadensis was differentiated from C. formosus based on molecular analyses in 2003, commercial pickers already had their own name for this chanterelle, "the hybrid". In regard of taste it seems to me equal to the Pacific Chanterelle.

Cantharellus subalbidus  A.H. Sm. & Morse 1947     White Chanterelle
Photos: Breitenbush Hot Springs 10-24-2008 © Daniel Winkler
Cantharellus subalbidus, the White Chanterelle is endemic to the PNW. It is much paler than all the other chanterelles here. However, the whitish flesh stains yellow from handling and also in old age. Often it has a much thicker stem and is more stout than the two big yellowish-caped chanterelles, C. formosus and C. cascadensis. Often white chanterelles do not reach above the duff layer and are much harder to spot than other chanterelles. Personally I prefer its taste to C. formosus, but that could be a result of finding much less Cantharellus subalbidus than C. formosus.

Cascade and White Chanterelles
Cantharellus cascadensis (left) and Cantharellus subalbidus (right) in a crate ready to be sliced for cooking. The Breitenbush Mushroom Conference always has a great mushroom cooking and tasting workshop offered by chef Michael Blackwell. Breitenbush Hot Springs 10-23-2010 © Daniel Winkler


Cantharellus roseocanus   Redhead, Norvell & Moncalvo  Rainbow chanterelle

Cantharellus roseocanus Washington
A cluster of the American chanterelle (Cantharellus roseocanus formerly C. cibarius var. roseocanus) in the Cascades West of Seattle. These very fresh specimen show the typical intense color of the folds, the caps often lose their yellow tone and turn pale yellow to light grayish, while the folds keep the color of their intensely yellow tissue. It is called the Rainbow chanterelle since many of them have a pinkish hoary coating on the cap margin when fresh. However, the color change of its flesh after injury belies its name, it just turns very slowly brown. Cascades Mountains, WA, 9-11-2013 © Daniel Winkler

Cantharellus roseocanus Cantherellus formosus
  On the left Golden Chanterelle and on the right Rainbow Chanterelle.
Both Chanterelles have a strong fruity, apricot like smell and the after-taste of their raw flesh is spicy. The spiciness gave rise to the German name Pfifferling, meaning Pepper Mushroom, but it takes quite awhile to develop that in your mouth. Many people might miss this characteristic, but slugs and bugs might stay away from Cantharellus due to that chemical defense. Aroma and taste of to these two Chanterelles is quite similar, but the Rainbow chanterelle's aroma and taste seem a bit more intense when raw. After cooking I could not tell any difference.

Chanterellus roseocanusIn the Pacific Northwest the Rainbow Chanterelle (Cantharellus roseocanus) is usually associated with spruce, be it Picea sitchensis on the coast or Picea engelmannii in the mountains. However, there are reports of association with lodgepole pine along the Oregon coast. Due to its ectomycorrhizal association with spruce it is much rarer than the Golden and the White chanterelle in the Pacific Northwest. Commercial picking is rarely aimed at the Rainbow chanterelle. Cascades Mountains, WA, 9-11-2013 © Daniel Winkler

 

A Gathering of the PNW Chanterelles at Breitenbush Hot Springs

                                                                 Cantharellus subalbidus                                  Cantharellus cibarius var. roseocanus 
 
A picture from the ID table at the 2008 mushroom conference at Breitenbush Hot Springs, near Detroit, Oregon.
The Pacific Golden Chanterelle Cantharellus formosus (lower left next to the purple pig's ear - Gomphus clavatus ), Cantharellus cascadensis (folds of the hymenium, the spore producing surface, are much lighter, rather whitish in fresher specimen and the cap bright yellow, See above a fresher sample), Cantharellus cibarius var. roseocanus - the rainbow chanterelle (top center right), sporting the deepest yellow folds and Cantharellus subalbidus, the white chanterelle. On the lower left Craterellus tubaeformis aka yellow foot. There was also a blue chanterelle Polyozellus multiplex found in Breitenbush (see below). Judy Rogers and Susan Libonati were in charge of the ID table. Judy talked on Sunday about the PNW chanterelle diversity and I hope I did not misrepresent any of her statements here. Please note that all these specimen had been handled by many people and thus color changes are possible. 10-26-2008 © Daniel Winkler

 Craterellus tubaeformis  (Fr.) Quel.     Winter or Funnel Chanterelle

 


Tubies like mossy spots, no doubt.
March 5, 2008 - Mission, British Columbia, Canada.
Craterellus tubaeformis has several common names, which are all helpful in describing this small rubbery mushroom. "Yellow foot" describes the bright yellow stipe, which is often very distinct in color from the dark brown to dingy yellow-brown cap and the much lighter fold-like ribs under the cap.
"Funnel Chanterelle" points out the funnel shaped center of the cap and "Tuby" takes it a bit further down the stipe, since it is hollow.
"Winter chanterelle" informs us about its main fruiting season. This is especially true along the West Coast where Craterellus tubaeformiscan fruit at any point between late fall and late winter. I have collected them in California in January and in Mission BC in early March in between patches of snow.
 

Craterellus tubaeformis Winter chanterelle
 © Daniel Winkler, Salt Point State Park, Sonoma County CA, Jan. 19, 2008

The small size of this good edible mushroom is usually compensated by the fact that winter chanterelles occur in big numbers. However, one needs patience harvesting yellow feet. Jürgen from Mission BC introduced me to the use of scissors when collecting winter chanterelles.
Polyozellus multiplex (Underw.) Murrill The Blue Chanterelle 

A darker, more mature specimen of Polyozellus multiplex, the Blue Chanterelle. Breitenbush Hot Springs, near Detroit, Oregon 10-23-2010 © Daniel Winkler
Breitenbush Hot Springs 10-26-2008 © Daniel Winkler

The blue chanterelle or sometimes also known as black chanterelle is much rarer than the Pacific chanterelle. In my very limited experience it is an higher altitude species often associated with spruce and true fir in the Pacific Northwest. It is also reported from Japan and SW China. The folds under the cap start out just as dark purple-blue as the cap, but the blue component fades and the mushrooms darkens with age and when dried.

Newest DNA analysis indicates that the Blue chanterelle is not closely related to chanterelles, but belongs to the Thelephoraceae family, the earth fans. So it turns out that Yunnan's famous and highly prized edible Ganba Jun (Thelephora ganbajun) is a relative.

Verpa bohemica  (Krombh.) J. Schroet. Early Morel or Early False Morel
[synon. Ptychoverpa bohemica (Krombh.) Boud]

© Daniel Winkler, Kirkland WA, April 19, 2008

I have been eating Verpas since many years and always enjoyed them without any ill effects.
Please note some people get unpleasant reactions, such as gastro-intestinal upset or muscular dis-coordination after eating Verpa bohemica.Thorough cooking is absolutely necessary, some people parboil them before consuming. Overindulging seems to be a bad idea.

© Daniel Winkler, Kirkland, King County WA, April 19, 2008

A nest of Verpas on the base of a black cotton wood in Redmond Watershed Park. © Daniel Winkler, Redmond, King County WA, April 23, 2008


In the Pacific Northwest Verpa bohemica often grows in symbioses with Black cottonwoods (Populus trichocarpa or P. balsamifera subsp. trichocarpa). It is easy to time the fruiting of Verpas since it coincides with the flowering of North America's biggest deciduous tree, the Black cottonwood. Its flowering is widely advertised by its sweet smell. Below the stem of the left, leaning Verpa are fallen catkins and bud leaves, which are covered by an aromatic and sticky gum, which had many traditional uses by native people.
Spring morels (Verpa bohemica) are easily distinguished from true morels (Morchella spp.). The cap of spring morels hangs completely free of the stem. It is only attached at the top, hence another common name "thimble morel". The stem of true morels is completely fused with the cap; the whole mushroom is hollow. Also the stem of spring morels has a cottony stuffing, which is absent in morels.

A Puget Sound garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis pickeringii) sun bathing on an otherwise cool spring day (thanks Bonnie for identifying this Garter snake).
 © Daniel Winkler, Redmond, King County WA, April 23, 2008

Morchella importuna  M. Kuo, O'Donnell & T.J. Volk Landscape Black Morel  
March 22, 2008
These baby morels showed up in our yard and are not taller than 2 cm. We will watched them very closely, before we facilitated spore disposal through ingestion. I took pictures twice a week, but then slugs and squirrels ruined my growth documentation project. However I had pictures of the mature state from the previous year.

Taxonomy of American morels is slowly getting clearer. So far this morel was clustered in the M. elata group. The closet description is on Michael Kuo's The Mushroom Expert webpages as Taxon #J "Its cap features vertically arranged pits and ridges that develop a "laddered" appearance (with sunken, horizontal cross-ribs), and its stem is fairly dark when young. MDCP collections have come only from landscaping areas in the Pacific Northwest, suggesting that Taxon J may be an introduced organism." .
March 22, 2008
More or less same spot as the previous year in our yard in Kirkland. These morels are growing on a pile of topsoil we had moved when adding on 3 years earlier. A crab apple tree is about 10 m away, I doubt that there is a connection, root connection that would be, although some early morels are reported to have an affinity to apple trees. In 2010 they were back at March 4, but none was seen in 2009 or 2012. However, at a different location Landscape morels popped late April 2012 in Kirkland, thanks to a below average temperature March.


Hallelujah!!!
Finally we have lot's of official names for American morels thanks to this publication"
Taxonomic revision of true morels (Morchella) in Canada and the United States by Kuo M, Dewsbury DR, O'Donnell K, Carter MC, Rehner SA, Moore JD, Moncalvo J-M, Canfield SA, Stephenson SL, Methven AS, Volk TJ.  Mycologia 2012.
 We'll so I hoped, however the publication is on hold, since Phillippe Clowez had published a world review of morel species and included a bunch of American morels, Kuo et al. had not integrated in their study.
March 30, 2007
A black morel, probably Morchella importuna that popped up in our yard in Kirkland, Washington, last week of March, 2007. Interestingly, the fruiting body grew on top of card box material that was laid out to suppress weed growth. There is still a layer of card board visible at the base of the morel.
 
Unfortunately the PNW landscape morel has not much taste or should we say, it is an embarrasment for the naturals and fire morels.


Urban morel Hunt?
There is no point in going morel hunting in town or suburbia, since it is not really predictable where to find morels. However, I look for them wherever I go, especially on wood-chips. One can really hit the jackpot on such mulched areas.  I found them in yards and along sidewalks in downtown Redmond.
Much more reliable are morel fruitings in pine forests in the cascades or especially after forest fires. I have a whole page on a hunt in the Okanogan.


Morchella snyderi M. Kuo & Methven Snyder's Black Morel

Here a nice nest of "naturals" as Larry Evans calls them. The name is alluding to the fact that these morels are part of a natural annual fruiting that has not been caused by fire or other disturbance. They are part of the Morchella elata group. I found this group in a Douglas fir, true fir-maple forest in southern Washington.
Applying the newly provided key from Kuo et al. 2012 it should be Morchella snyderiHowever, the publication is on hold, since Phillippe Clowez had published a world review of morel species and included a bunch of American morels.

A young specimen that helps identifying this morel as Morchella snyderi, since only very few Black morels start out with such light colored ridges and pits.


 Morchella esculentoides found in an apple Orchard in Petaluma CA in late March 2011. As a common name American Blond Morel would be an option, but more succinct would be Marilyn's Morel in honor of America's most famous blond, Marilyn Monroe. Photographed by Quinn Schott.

 Trout Lake, WA  May 3, 2009.








  Sources:
Gibson, Ian & Eli; Kendrick, Bryce 2008.  MatchMaker- Gilled Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest 1.31 - awesome software, free to download!
McKenny, M.; Stuntz, D.E.; Ammirati, J.F. 1987. The new savory wild mushroom. Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon. 250 pp.
Trudell, Steve & Joe Ammirati 2009. Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, Timber Press Field Guide, Portland, 349 p.
Winkler, Daniel 2011Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park BC, Canada, Fold-out, 16p.
                                                       Buy here
 
 
When to expect fruitings of Seattle's favorite mushrooms



 Daniel's Fungal Feastability Function

This curve, incoincidently reminiscent of a mushroom cap, illustrates the distribution of edible (green) and poisonous (red) mushrooms within the large mass of mushrooms. Note, how few mushrooms are to be found in both extremes, choice edible as symbolized by a prime king bolete (Boletus edulis) and deadly poisonous ones, symbolized byAmanita phalloides, the Death cap. The majority of mushrooms out there falls in the gray middle, may be not toxic, but of questionable taste and / or consistency, too small or too slimy to matter or simply unknown.
Now to make things even more mushy, this function falls differently for every mycophagist. For some poor mushroom lovers even the king bolete or a chanterelle lands in the red zone, however there is no known person indulging repeatedly in death cap feasts, but of course slugs and deer nibble it without ill effects.
 
 
The best and safest way to learn about edible mushrooms is to learn from people who have applied their knowledge successfully and survived their fungal foraging. A great way is to join a local mushroom club or mycological society. I have many of them listed on my Fungal LinksThese clubs offer mushroom identification, forays, meetings, wild mushroom exhibitions, cooking events and fungal camaraderie, a great way to learn about mushrooms and nature.

However, if you would like me to join you on a personal mushroom walk to explore your local edible mushrooms or have me take you on a hunt, send me an email:


The mushroom knife with hardwood handle and animal bristles for sale.
 
Last change: 11-7-2013 
Last edited Thu, 11/07/2013 - 00:49