Cantharellus cibarius Fr. 1821
The chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius is widely viewed as among the most desirable of edible mushrooms. It is found singly, scattered, in groups, or sometimes clustered on the ground in woods. Its flesh is thick, firm, and white, with an odor that may be fragrant like apricots (or not distinctive) and a taste that may be peppery (or not distinctive). (Bessette et al. 1997) Cantharellus cibarius has been reported from North America, Europe, North Africa, the Himalayas, and Thailand, but there is considerable evidence that this nominal species actually includes multiple distinct cryptic species (see Taxonomy and Systematics section below). (Feibelman et al. 1997; Pilz et al. 2003)
Members of the Cantharellus cibarius complex occur throughout the north temperate zone. In northern California and the Pacific Northwest they grow mainly with conifers, but along the Central California coast, they are often associated with live oaks, especially at pasture edges. On the west coast of the Unites States these mushrooms appear in cool weather and are often large and thick-stemmed (half kilo specimens are not uncommon), with an orange cap, faintly fruity odor, and pale, copiously veined gills (although a smaller, slimmer, cleaner form grows under Sitka Spruce). In eastern North America they are most common in the summer and are usually much smaller (caps typically 3 to 6 cm across) and often yellower, with a slender, well developed stalk and little or no odor. A number of other fungi, including several Cantharellus species and some poisonous species, can be confused with C. cibarius. (Arora 1986)
Cantharellus cibarius is a medium to large mushroom with a flaring funnel shape. Its wavy-edged cap is bright yellow to orange, bald, and usually flat when young and domed when mature. The gills are well spaced, shallow, blunt-edged, and fairly thick, often with connecting veins in between. The forked, thick-edged gills are the same color as the cap or paler, running down the stalk. The stalk is colored like the cap (or slightly paler) and is solid (not hollow). The flesh is white or slightly tinged yellow. The odor is usually fruity (like pumpkin or apricot), but sometimes mild; taste is mild to peppery. No veil, ring, or volva are present. Spores are yellowish. Some similar species are poisonous. (Lincoff 1981; Arora 1991)
Cantharellus cibarius grows on the ground under oaks or conifers, with numbers ranging from just a few to many at a site (Lincoff 1981).
According to Pilz et al. (2003), Cantharellus cibarius is found in North America, Europe, North Africa, the Himalayas, and Thailand. They note, however, that future research may reveal that this nominal species actually includes multiple cryptic species in these different regions (see Taxonomy and Systematics section below).
In North America, C. cibarius is encountered from June to September in the southeast, from July to August in the northeast, from September to November in the northwest, and from November to February in California. (Lincoff 1981)
Like many other fungi, chanterelles form associations known as mycorrhizae with the roots of particular tree species (this is one factor that has made chanterelle cultivation challenging).
Evolution and Systematics
Systematics and Taxonomy
As has been the case for many fungi, especially species with apparently very broad geographic distributions and varied habitat associations, recent research has revealed that mushrooms going by the name Cantharellus cibarius do not, in fact, belong to a single species. Molecular genetic studies (in combination with traditional morphological, chemical, and ecological analysis), have led to the recognition of several "cryptic" species, some of them long suspected by mycologists and serious mushroom foragers but rigorously documented by professional mycologists beginning only around the end of the 20th century.
Until recently, morphologically similar yellow chanterelles throughout North America were treated as conspecific with each other and with the European yellow chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). However, throughout the twentieth century, mycologists have noted that yellow chanterelles found in North America not only are morphologically distinct from European species, but also exhibit variation at regional scales across North America (Redhead et al. 1997 and references therein; Dunham et al. 2003 and references therein). Feibelman et al. (1994) found that North American chanterelles with C. cibarius-like morphology exhibit significant length variability in the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (nrDNA ITS), suggesting that this general morphology might mask a species complex (although variable ITS length can be present within a single species and, conversely, reproductively isolated species can show low variability in ITS regions, Dunham et al. 2003 and references therein). Feibelman et al. (1997) noted that regional morphological differences suggest that C. cibarius is a species complex. Redhead et al. (1997) used morphological and genetic data to identify the yellow chanterelle most frequently harvested from the North American Pacific Northwest forests as C. formosus, a species once thought to be rare in the region. Dunham et al. (2003) analyzed ITS and microsatellite data from C. cibarius complex samples from the west coast of the United States as well as from Europe. Based on their results, they distinguished an additional new species, C. cascadensis.
The prominent golden chanterelle of California's oak woodlands was recognized as a new species, Cantharellus californicus, by Arora and Dunham (2008) (the authors note that this is the largest Cantharellus species in the world, with individual sporocarps commonly weighing 1/2 kilogram or more when mature). Arora and Dunham also discuss the commercial harvest of this species and compare its ectomycorrhizal host associations with other Cantharellus in California. Preliminary data suggest that putative C. cibarius from eastern North America may include cryptic species as well (Dunham et al. 2003 and references therein). Available data suggest that some North American chanterelles are indeed best treated as varieties of a single species, C. cibarius, with both Old World and New World representatives. However, it is possible that additional sampling and analysis may lead researchers to conclude that true C. cibarius (i.e., mushrooms conspecific with C. cibarius from Europe, where it was originally described) in fact do not occur in North America, although closely related species clearly do.
Many chanterelles are picked and processed in the Pacific Northwest of North America and exported to Europe. Chanterelles are one of the top three commercially harvested and exported edible wild mushroom crops in western North America (the others being morels [Morchella spp.] and matsutake [Tricholoma magnivelare]), with a value of millions of dollars. (Redhead et al. 1997) After many years of unsuccessful efforts to cultivate chanterelles, Danell and Camacho (1997) reported some early success, but more than a decade later cultivation techniques are still under development.
Cantharellus cibarius subsp. flavipes R. Heim 1960, Cantharellus cibarius subsp. nanus R. Heim 1960, Cantharellus cibarius subsp. umbrinus R. Heim 1960, Cantharellus cibarius var. alborufescens Malençon 1975, Cantharellus cibarius var. bicolor Maire 1937, Cantharellus cibarius var. cibarius Fr. 1821, Cantharellus cibarius var. flavipes R. Heim ex Eyssart. & Buyck 2000, Cantharellus cibarius var. salmoneus L. Corb. 1929
- Agaricus chantarellus Bolton 1788 (synonym)
- Agaricus chantarellus L. 1753 (synonym)
- Alectorolophoides cibarius (Fr.) Earle 1909 (synonym)
- Cantharellus cibarius forma neglectus M. Souché 1904 (synonym)
- Cantharellus cibarius var. albidus Maire 1937 (synonym)
- Cantharellus cibarius var. neglectus (M. Souché) Bigeard & H. Guill. (synonym)
- Cantharellus neglectus (M. Souché) Eyssart. & Buyck 2000 (synonym)
- Cantharellus pallens Pilát 1959 (synonym)
- Cantharellus vulgaris Gray 1821 (synonym)
- Chanterel chantarellus (L.) Murrill 1910 (synonym)
- Craterellus cibarius (Fr.) Quél. 1888 (synonym)
- Merulius chantarellus (L.) Scop. 1772 (synonym)
- Merulius cibarius (Fr.) Westend. (synonym)