Omphalotus ssp., Jack-o-lantern mushroom
Before you read one more line - NEVER EVER eat a Jack o Lantern Mushroom - nope, don’t think it, don’t try it, don’t consider it. Got that now?
No eating of Jack o Lantern mushrooms.
But that doesn’t render Jack O lanterns completely useless, they can be rather entertaining as folks try to see if they can make them glow. Yes, GLOW as in glow in the dark. These mushrooms are reported to glow an eerie green in the dark. More about that later -
While I usually don’t see too many during peak chanterelle season, the jack o lanterns are the mushroom it seems is most often confused by novice chanterelle hunters with the chanterelle. Within about 8- 12 hours the mistake is usually apparent and discovered in an emergency room. Although usually not fatal, Omphalotus ssp., “Jack-o-lantern mushrooms,” can cause significant toxicity. Both chanterelles and jack o lanterns are bright orangish yellow and can fruit at the same time of year, a few tips to remember when trying to decide what you really have in your mushroom basket - Jack o lanterns grow on wood - chanties on the ground. Jack o lanterns may appear to be growing on soil but if you remove some leaf litter under them it’s easy enough to find the remains of a stump or tree roots. Jack o lanterns have true gills rather than the veins of a chantie. The toxicity of jack o lanterns is because they contain muscarine, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, perspiration, and excessive tearing. In high doses it can cause respiratory failure.
I more often see them this time of year, in the fall, near the end of October early November, and while novice hunters don’t as often bring them to me thinking they chanties, they do bring them to me thinking they’ve found a big chicken of the woods. After all they are orange.. and chicken of the woods are orange.
Chicken of the woods /sulfur shelf
That and the fact that both grow on wood is about where any resemblance between the jack o lanterns and chicken of the woods ends. Jack o lanterns are gilled, chicken of the woods or polypores, Chicken of the woods grows in flat shelf like layers, Jack o Lanterns clearly have stems. Chicken of the woods normally have a lighter yellow band around outside edges of each layer of the shelf and will leak a yellow fluid when really fresh. Jack o lanterns are orange throughout with no extra colors. (Unless you count the green glowing business)
Speaking of the glow green - Have I seen it? Well once I thought I got a batch to glow.. but I was pretty tired, and sitting in dark closet for an hour so waiting on them to glow may have colored my judgement.
One of my favorite mushroom experts, Mike Kuo has a humorous outlook on the whole glowing conspiracy on his web site Mushroom Expert
So dear readers while you are trekking through the woods this fall on the way to your stand, blind, etc. in the pre dawn hours.. keep you eyes open for a funny glowing green, it just might be mother nature’s version of a Halloween jack o lantern!