Meg Duncan

Staff Writer

HANNIBAL — A popular springtime activity can also be enjoyed in the fall — mushroom hunting. While many of the hunters grab their bags and head into the woods in search of the edible fungi at the break of winter, it’s also possible to find mushrooms that are safe to eat in the fall.

Although the well known morels are the most popular species of mushroom in Missouri and are only available in the spring, Sara Haven, at the University of Missouri Extension said Missouri hosts about nine edible mushrooms in the fall.

“Chicken of the woods and hen of the woods are probably the most easily found this time of year,” she said. “They are also delicious and easy to identify.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Guide to Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms says the species is usually found growing in large clusters of overlapping caps that are bright-orange and flat with a shelflike, fleshy texture and no stalk.

Hens of the Woods form large clusters with a short, off-center stalk and are reported to resemble “a large ruffled chicken sitting at the base of a tree.” The caps are said to be spoon-shaped and grayish brown on top and white beneath with a white spore print.

Chicken of the woods can usually be found from May to November, and hen of the woods are generally spotted only between September and November.

“Most of our fall mushrooms grow on decaying wood,” she said. “They are more commonly found after we have had some rain but can be found in areas that are shaded and moist during dry times.”

Other mushrooms to look for in the fall are coral fungi, mane, shaggy mane, oysters, and chanterelles. Haven warns that mushroom hunters should pick chanterelles with extreme care.

“Chanterelles look similar to jack o lantern mushrooms, which are poisonous,” she said, adding that there are not any general characteristics that point to a poisonous mushroom or an edible mushroom.

Haven recommends the Missouri Department of Conservation’s guide to edible and poisonous mushrooms to identify if the species is safe to eat. “In some cases a mushroom needs to have the spores printed in order to have correct identification. Mushroom hunters should always make sure they are positive of a mushroom’s identification before consuming.”

To obtain a printable version of the Missouri Department of Conservation Guide to Missouri’s Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms, and other information about mushrooms, go to their website at https://mdc.mo.gov and search for mushroom.

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