Jack o’lanterns are a good mushroom to know, since they’re poisonous and are probably the main imposter for chanterelles that you’ll see while hunting across. They are a textbook case of a poisonous mushroom being a “look a like” for an edible one. It’s easy to tell the difference after you’ve hunted chanterelles for a while, but at first it was a little tricky and I definitely came close to putting them in the mushroom basket.
When and where do Jack O’Lanterns fruit?
In hardwood forests with white oak trees in the Midwest where I hunt, these start to fruit after the Chanterelles while the Lobster Mushrooms are fruiting and right before the Hen of the woods start to come up, typically late August or September. Golden chanterelles start to fruit in July.
Whats the difference between a Chanterelle and a Jack O’Lantern?
Probably the easiest way to tell them apart is that Jack O’Lantern mushrooms grow in a cluster,they will be growing in a connected clump from a single root, unlike Chanterelles that grow by themselves.
Chanterelles also have fake “gills” that extend down their stem, and will typically fork as well. Jack O’Lanterns are usually much bigger than Chanterelles, although you can get an occasional extra large chanterelle.
Jack O’Lanterns are also parasites, they feed off of living and decaying trees (see picture above), chanterelles are mycorhyzal: growing symbiotically with trees in a mutually beneficial relationship.