Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for July 1998

This month's fungus is Craterellus fallax, the black trumpet.

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Craterellus fallax Craterellus fallax is a rather unusual fungus. It is related to the chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius, but is in a different genus for a variety of reasons-- classically Cantharellus species have clamp connections on the hyphae of their fruiting bodies, while Craterellus species do not. This distinction does not always hold true however. For example, Craterellus tubaeformis was recently accepted into that genus despite its having clamp connections. Both belong to the order Cantharellales, family Cantharellaceae, which includes fungi with mushroom-like fruiting bodies with blunt ridges instead of gills.

Other common names for this mushroom include the "black chanterelle" and "horn of plenty". The French call a similar species "La Trompette des morts"-- the Trumpet of Death!! Despite its French name and its onerous appearance, this is actually a delicious edible mushroom. It's not prized for its flavor or texture, but mainly for its odor, which is very sweet (much like apricots, but stronger than C. cibarius) and woodsy at the same time. Some say it has the odor of used sweat socks!! People who eat this mushroom generally like it in spaghetti sauce. I prefer it sautéed in olive oil and butter and eaten directly or in stir-fry. It dries very well and adds a great flavor to eggs cooked in the middle of winter, when we here in the north are craving for something other than snow!

Craterellus fallax is actually rather common east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, but it is not as often collected-- its black color makes it difficult to see. But once you find one, you should look around for there are usually more-- sometimes up to several hundred in a small area. It is most often found in association (probably mycorrhizal) with oak (Quercus sp.) or beech (Fagus sp.) trees.

Craterellus cinereus var. multiplexCraterellus cinereus var. multiplex on left, Craterellus fallax on rightAnother closely related species is Craterellus cinereus var. multiplex. It is much rarer and is easily distinguished by the network of ridges on the underside of the cap. Compare the undersides of the caps in the picture to the right, with Craterellus cinereus on left, Craterellus fallax on right. I have also found the odor of Craterellus cinereus var. multiplex to be much stronger and sweeter than that of C. fallax. Another rare species in North America is Craterellus cornucopioides, which is distinguished from C. fallax by having a white rather than salmon colored spore print. C. fallax spores are larger (11-15 (20) X 7-11 um) then those of C. cornucopioides (8-11 X 5-6 um)--exact spore sizes vary by author-- but is otherwise very similar. I'm not sure I've ever personally seen C. cornucopioides in this country, although it's the common species in Europe.

Craterellus odoratusThere are a number of other Craterellus species. Some of the others are black, but one of the most beautiful is the bright yellow/orange Craterellus odoratus. I've only seen it in North Carolina, but it's more widespread than that.
It's been very wet here in Wisconsin this summer so it should be great for mushrooms. This is a good time to get out there and start learning the mushrooms-- many delicious edible fungi fruit in the summer when it's hot and wet.

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