Major Groups > Chanterelles and Trumpets


Chanterelles and Trumpets: Cantharellus and Craterellus     

[ Basidiomycota > Cantharellales > Cantharellaceae . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

The mushrooms in the genera Cantharellus and Craterellus have fairly well defined caps and stems, or are vase-shaped to trumpet-shaped. Their spore-bearing surfaces occur on the underside of the cap (or the "outer" side of the "vase"), and range from smooth to wrinkled, to furrowed so regularly and deeply that the wrinkles look like gills--but are actually false gills, rather than blade-like or plate-like structures that are clearly separate from the rest of the cap. Most, if not all, of the species appear to be mycorrhizal, and chanterelles and trumpets are distributed across North America--although there appears to be more species diversity east of the Rocky Mountains. In fact, at the time of this writing (2015), North American mycology appears to be gearing up for an explosion of new species in the Cantharellus "cibarius" group; see the linked page for more information.

Identification of chanterelles and trumpets is generally accomplished using macro-morphological features, with occasional reference to spore size. The problem areas for identification of species (as they are currently defined) involve assessment of colors, and figuring out whether the undersurface of the mushroom is smooth, veined, or has false gills. Colors should be observed in natural light, and the mushrooms should be held at various angles. At issue, often, is the line between "orange" and "yellow," and/or the line at which "pink" becomes a color. Frustratingly, the descriptor "egg-yolk yellow" is often used by chanterellologists--but if you have ever compared yolk colors of various eggs, you know that there is quite a range. White-bread commercial eggs often have yolks that are dull yellow, while natural eggs can have nearly orange yolks. And whether the undersurface of the mushroom becomes pink or not is not only dependent on the maturation of the specimen, but also on one's judgment of what constitutes "pink." I recommend substituting "pinkish," or even "with a subtle suggestion of pink," when mycologists describe the surfaces of chanterelles and trumpets as "pink." As for the distinction between undersurfaces that are smooth, veined, or false-gilled . . . well, the truth is that there is sort of a continuum between these three possibilities, and that species sometimes position themselves between the clear positions; sometimes one must make a judgment call. When identifying chanterelles and trumpets, be sure to make a spore print, since several recent studies have used this feature to help separate species. Several species have distinctive reactions to iron salts, and the reaction has not been recorded for many others; I recommend experimenting with this possibility.

Not too long ago, the genera Craterellus and Cantharellus were separated on the basis of the thickness of the flesh (very thin for Craterellus, thin to thick for Cantharellus) and on the presence (Cantharellus) or absence (Craterellus) of clamp connections between the hyphae. Bigelow's 1978 treatment of chanterelles and trumpets from New England is a good example. But DNA studies, beginning around the turn of the century, upset the traditional scheme; now the presence of clamp connections does not indicate one or the other genus, and Craterellus has been amended to include several thin-fleshed species that were formerly placed in Cantharellus. See the page for Craterellus tubaeformis for an extended discussion of these recent studies.


Cantharellus species

Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Craterellus ignicolor

Craterellus fallax

Craterellus species 02

Craterellus species 02

  Key to 46 Chanterelles and Trumpets in North America

1.Mature mushroom medium-sized to large; fairly tough and fleshy; often with a central depression that is coarsely scaly; some species growing in clusters with shared stem bases; spores somewhat wrinkled or warted (not smooth); distributed on the West Coast, in the Rocky Mountains, in the southern Appalachians, and in northern and northeastern North America.

1.Mature mushroom variously sized; fleshy or thin-fleshed; without a coarsely scaly central depression (or, if so, then thin-fleshed); growing alone, gregariously, or in clusters but not sharing stems (with two exceptions); spores smooth; variously distributed.

2.Fresh mushroom with dark colors (black, gray, dark blue, purplish black, blackish brown) overall.

2.Fresh mushroom not dark overall, though perhaps with a dark brown cap.

3.Growing in dense clusters with shared stem bases; found in northern and montane North America; blue to purple shades usually present on cap surface and undersurface; spores nodulose.

3.Not growing in clusters--or, if loosely clustered, stem bases not fused; variously distributed; blue shades absent or very faint; spores not nodulose.

4.Mature cap tiny (usually under 2 cm across); stem under 3 mm thick; cap fairly easily distinguished from stem.

4.Mature fruiting body more than 2 cm across; stem or pseudostem more than 3 mm thick; cap and stem clearly separated or not.

5.Cap margin fringed with tiny hairs; spores 8-10.5 x 5-7 µ; known from North Carolina and Tennessee.
Craterellus carolinensis

5.Cap margin not fringed; spores variously sized; probably widely distributed east of the Great Plains.

6.Spores 10-12 µ long.

6.Spores under 10 µ long.

7.Fresh cap brownish with a yellowish margin; basidia 6-spored.
Craterellus hesleri

7.Fresh cap black to gray; basidia 4-spored.
Craterellus subundulatus

8.Undersurface smooth at maturity, or slightly wrinkled to sparsely veined.

8.Undersurface at maturity more prominently wrinkled, veined, or with false gills.

9.Found in northern California and Oregon; spore print white to creamy; spores 8-12 µ long; basidia 2-spored.

9.Variously distributed; spore print varying; spores 6.5-8.5 µ long or 10-15 µ long; basidia 2- or 4-spored.

10.Associated with spruces; spore print color unknown; basidia 4-spored; spores 6.5-8.5 µ long.
Craterellus dubius

10.Associated with oaks and other hardwoods; spore print orangish yellow to pinkish orange; basidia 2-spored; spores 10-15 µ long.

11.Associated with oaks; pseudostem 1-3 cm thick at apex at maturity; odor strong and sweet.

11.Associated with beech, paper birch, or conifers; mature stem or pseudostem under 1.5 cm thick at apex; odor sweet or not distinctive.

12.Undersurface smooth to wrinkled, often notably paler than cap surface; spores mostly longer than 10 µm.
Craterellus undulatus

12.Undersurface with prominent veins or false gills; spores mostly shorter than 10 µm.

14.Found from the Rocky Mountains westward.

14.Found from the Great Plains eastward.

15.Mushroom very thin-fleshed, trumpet-shaped, and yellow; stem and cap not clearly separated.
"Craterellus konradii"
see Craterellus species 01

15.Mushroom not thin-fleshed and trumpet-shaped, yellow or not; stem and cap more or less clearly separated.

16.Fresh cap, false gills, and stem white to whitish or creamy, bruising orangish brown; associated with conifers.

16.Fresh cap, false gills, and stem not all white to whitish; associated with conifers or hardwoods.

17.Cap brown, developing a central perforation; stem yellow, with a waxy feel, hollowing.

17.Cap not brown, not developing a perforation; stem variously colored, not waxy, not hollowing.

18.Associated with spruces (especially Engelmann spruce); cap surface dull yellow, with a pinkish bloom when very young; false gills brilliant orange, frequently contrasting markedly with the cap; surfaces not bruising brownish to brownish orange when handled.

18.Associated with various trees; cap surface without a pinkish bloom; false gills usually not contrasting markedly with cap surface; surfaces bruising or not.

19.Associated with coast live oak in northern California; cap bald and egg-yolk yellow; false gills usually yellow; stem more or less equal.

19.Associated with hemlock, Douglas-fir, spruce, or lodgepole pine in the coastal Pacific Northwest; cap surface often developing fine scales or tiny appressed fibers, orangish yellow; false gills yellow or, often, pinkish; stem variously shaped. Note: The subsequent two species are DNA-defined and morphologically cryptic.

20.Stem usually tapered to base; cap usually orangish yellow.

20.Stem usually club-shaped or swollen in the middle; cap usually bright, pure yellow.
Cantharellus cascadensis

21.Found in northern areas under jack pine; cap surface dull yellow, with a pinkish bloom when very young; false gills brilliant orange, frequently contrasting markedly with the cap; surfaces not bruising brownish to brownish orange when handled.

21.Associated with various hardwoods and conifers; variously distributed; cap surface without a pinkish bloom; false gills if brilliant orange not contrasting markedly with the cap; surfaces bruising or not.

22.Cap and false gills pinkish red, pinkish orange, orangish pink, "cinnabar red" (about e44235), or peach colored (occasionally bright orange, without a red component, but if so, cap center not becoming perforated).

22.Cap and false gills without red, pink, peach, or "cinnabar" shades; if bright orange, cap becoming perforated.

23.Associated with seagrapes (plants in the genus Coccoloba) in coastal areas in the Caribbean and in Florida.

23.Not found in coastal areas in the Caribbean—or, if so, then associated with hardwood trees.

24.Cap and false gills peach colored; stem bruising and discoloring brownish yellow to yellowish brown; mushroom fairly fleshy and compact (stature cibarius-like); distributed in the Appalachians.

24.Cap and false gills pinkish red, pinkish orange, orangish pink, or "cinnabar red"; stem not bruising; mushroom thin-fleshed and graceful (stature not cibarius-like); variously distributed.

25.Known from eastern Texas; spores long-ellipsoid to nearly cylindric, 8–9 µm long; terminal cells on cap surface thin-walled and cylindric.
Cantharellus texensis

25.Variously distributed; spores ellipsoid, 7–8 µm long; terminal cells on cap surface thin- and thick-walled, cylindric to clavate.

26.Surfaces bruising purple to lilac; southeastern in distribution.
Gloeocantharellus purpurascens

26.Surfaces not bruising purple; variously distributed.

27.Cap brown or with a brown center at some point in its development.

27.Cap never brown.

28.Cap surface with fine brown fibrils; undersurface smooth, wrinkled, veined, or rarely sub-lamellate--but almost always without well-developed false gills.

28.Cap without brown fibrils; undersurface with well-developed false gills.

29.Associated with hardwoods or with slash pine; generally distributed below the Great Lakes and in the Appalachians; stem surface not waxy.

29.Associated with conifers; northern and Appalachian; stem surface often with a waxy feel.

30.Distributed from the southern Appalachians to Missouri and Québec; surfaces red with iron salts.

30.Distributed in the Gulf states; surfaces negative with iron salts.

31.Mushroom compact (mature stem about the width of the cap); flesh yellowing when sliced, then turning rusty brown; known from east-central Texas in association with post oak in savannahs.
Cantharellus quercophilus

31.Mushroom slender (mature stem longer than width of cap); flesh not yellowing when sliced; associated with slash pine and possibly with hardwoods; common throughout the Gulf States.
Cantharellus tabernensis

32.Undersurface smooth or, at maturity, wrinkled to veined or, near the margin, nearly gill-like.

32.Undersurface by maturity with well-developed false gills.

33.Spores round or nearly so.

33.Spores not round.

34.Cap yellow when young, only becoming brown at maturity.
Craterellus flavobrunneus

34.Cap brown from the beginning.

35.Stem long and pale, "always very long before the pileus expansion begins, giving the general appearance of 'pin-heads' in the population" (Petersen, 1979); cap and stem fading quickly.
Craterellus pallidipes

35.Stem not as above; cap and stem not fading quickly.

36.Undersurface smooth or, at maturity, wrinkled to veined or, near the margin, nearly gill-like.

36.Undersurface by maturity with well-developed false gills.

37.Mushroom small (mature cap to about 2 cm across, stem to about 6 mm thick); found in low, wet woods.

37.Mushroom medium-sized to large (mature cap 2-10 cm across, stem 0.5-2.5 cm thick); found under hardwoods in upland woods.

38.Mushrooms thin-fleshed, with truly vase-shaped caps (the depression of the "vase" extends all the way down into the stem); distributed in the southern Appalachians and reported (accuracy not certain due to confusion with other species) from Florida and Mexico.

38.Mushrooms thick-fleshed, with convex to flat or shallowly vase-shaped caps; distributed from the Great Plains eastward and southward.

39.Mushrooms often confluent (stems give rise to more than one cap); distributed in the southeastern United States and Mexico.

39.Mushrooms rarely confluent; widely distributed east of the Great plains.

40.Mature mushroom tiny to small; stem 1-10 mm thick, often becoming hollow; center of cap becoming perforated or not.

40.Mature mushroom usually medium-sized to large (for a chanterelle); stem 10-30 thick, fleshy; center of cap not becoming perforated.

41.Distributed in the Gulf States; associated with slash pine; cap dull orangish yellow to brownish, often appearing nearly zonate near the margin with maturity.
Cantharellus tabernensis

41.Variously distributed; associated with various trees; cap variously colored, not becoming zonate.

42.Associated with hemlock; cap and stem bright orange.
Cantharellus minor
f. intensissima
(see C. minor)

42.Associated with hardwoods; cap and stem variously colored.

43.Center of cap becoming perforated with maturity; undersurface with pinkish to grayish, blunt, false gills; mature cap 1.5-5 cm across.

43.Center of cap not becoming perforated; undersurface yellow to orangish yellow, with well-developed, gill-like false gills; mature cap 0.5-3 cm across.

44.Odor strong, reminiscent of camphor or curry (like that of Lactarius camphoratus); false gills shallow; young cap finely scaly; known from Nova Scotia.
Cantharellus camphoratus

44.Odor sweet and fragrant, reminiscent of apricots--or not distinctive; false gills shallow to deep; cap finely scaly or not; variously distributed.

45.Cap with lilac to purple shades, at least when young; surfaces bruising yellowish to brownish readily; spores under 9 µ long; found in the Gulf Coast states.
Cantharellus lewisii

45.Cap without purple shades; surfaces bruising readily, slowly, or not bruising; spore length varying; variously distributed.

46.So here's the deal. Up until very recently, you could have called your mushroom "Cantharellus cibarius" if you had reached this point in the key, and you would have been in line with North American literature from field guides to websites (including this one) to scientific treatments. But thanks to recent research we are now in a transition. A few cibarius-like species have been described from our continent with contemporary (meaning: DNA-informed) concepts. Many more species are likely to ensue--and you can help mycology figure out what the species are. Please read the page for "Cantharellus cibarius," linked to the right, to find out how.

46.Mushroom identifier is willing to accept that there is a good probability that his or her cibarius-like collection from eastern North America is unnamed.

47.Species recently described from pine-oak woods in eastern Texas, with precise distribution limits yet to be established.

47.Species recently described from oak-hickory woods in Wisconsin, with precise distribution limits yet to be established.

48.Stem, particularly in immature specimens, often longer than the cap is wide; spores 8.5-12 µ long; elements from cap surface with thick (0.5-1 µ) walls.
Cantharellus altipes

48.Stem not usually longer than the cap is wide; spores 7-8.5 µ long; elements from cap surface both thin- and thick-walled.
Cantharellus tenuithrix

49.False gills with a deep pink tinge; cap orange; stem orange with a white base; spore print deep pinkish orange; spores 10-12 µ long.
Cantharellus spectaculus

49.False gills white, yellow, or pinkish; cap yellow; stem white or yellow; spore print whitish to yellow or pinkish; spores 7.5-10 µ long.

50.False gills white to whitish when young, developing pink hues with maturity (tilt the undersurface at several angles in good lighting before deciding); spore print whitish to pinkish or pink; stem white to whitish.
Cantharellus phasmatis

50.False gills, spore print, and stem yellow.
Cantharellus flavus


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Kuo, M. (2015, March). Chanterelles and trumpets: Cantharellus and Craterellus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

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