There’s gold in those hills – that is golden mushrooms

Pacific Golden Chanterelles became the Oregon State mushroom in 1999. And no wonder, Oregon harvests over 500,000 pounds annually!

Chanterelles (Royalty free from Unsplash)

Chanterelles are one of the most popular wild edible mushrooms and tend to command a high price in both restaurants and specialty stores. Their rich, distinctive taste and aroma often puts them into the same gourmet fungi short list with truffles and morels.

Where do Pacific Goldens Grow?

Chanterelles grow in Pacific Northwest conifer forests that include western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and Sitka spruce (and live oaks in California). It forms a mycorrhizal mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with these trees.

Pacific Gold Chanterelle is one of several chanterelle mushrooms. It is sometimes hard to tell one from another. The Pacific has a long, graceful funnel-shaped stem that tapers to the base. The wavy cap has tiny, dark scales on the pinkish orange-yellow surface. The false gills look like forked wrinkles with a pinkish hue. The scales and pinkish colors are sometimes absent in wet conditions. Look for a distinctive fruity apricot aroma.  

Not the Same

Recent DNA work helped identify the differences between ‘Cantharellus cibarius’ (Golden Chanterelle), ‘Cantharellus formosus’ (Pacific Golden Chanterelle), and other related species. At one time all chanterelles in the Pacific Northwest were considered ‘cibarius.’ Turns out they are not. See

The cibarius for instance grow in clumps among the moss in coniferous forests. Some grow in grasslands, mountainous birch forests, or beech forests depending on the location and specific species. Cibarius are yellow or golden, funnel-shaped, and meaty. Gill-like ridges run down the stem under the cap and they may smell fruity, woody, or earthy. For more information on these findings see: The Wild Mushroom Expert (


Mushrooms can be difficult to identify and several, like the cibarius and formosus, look very similar. There are other mushrooms that look like these including the false chanterelle which is darker almost orangeish with a dark center that grades out towards light edges. False chanterelle is not dangerous, but could upset your stomach. It also tastes bad.

Jack-o-lantern mushrooms are toxic and sometimes mistaken for chanterelles. The gills of a jack-o-lantern mushroom are much thinner, deeper, and more delicate than the smooth, blunt, and shallow gill-like ridges of a chanterelle.


Fresh chanterelles are the best to cook with. They dry well, but can become a bit chewy when reconstituted. Chanterelles can be dried and ground to a flour or frozen for short amounts of time.

Cooking releases the complex flavors of a chanterelle, especially when cooking with wine and butter. There are several fabulous recipes around to experiment with (like in sauces, sautés, soups, etc.). Look for Chanterelles at local farmer’s markets, gourmet stores, and gift stores.

The key to enjoying mushrooms is making sure that you have the right one. Some are poisonous (see chart at Most poisonous mushrooms will cause vomiting and diarrhea with no long-term damage. Other mushrooms can be deadly and cause damage to kidneys and liver. Do your research, learn how to safely identify your target, and similar mushroom species.

Agricultural Engineers?

You might not think of a lowly lichen as an engineer. Most people might laugh at the idea. A few though would know their story.

Frog Pelt Royalty free images from


Lichens are fairly common on the moist Pacific Northwest central coast. One can find them growing on mossy rocks, soil, and dead trees in moist areas typically under the 2,200-foot elevation.

If we were to travel north into Canada, we could find areas hosting nearly 30 different lichen species. We could even find some in northern California.

Would we see them?

Peltigera lichens are found on all continents. There are several different types of lichens that includes over 580 species of macrolichens and over 1,400 species of microlichens. Our region is particularly rich in lichens.

Easy to Overlook

Frog Pelt or Dog Lichen is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. This small lichen is easy to identify.

Frog pelt creates relatively large rubbery olive green-gray lobes. The lobs are typically between .04 and .9 inches wide and nearly flush to the ground.

What makes them special?

Lichens are ecologically important as food and shelter for wildlife, large and small, and indigenous Americans

Lichens are fairly intolerant of environmental change and are very sensitive to changes in air quality, moisture, and drainage. They won’t thrive in dirty air.   


All lichens share a common ancestry and all Peltigera associate with nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria Nostoc. This association allows them to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Nitrogen is required for healthy plant growth. It is often in short supply in forests. In more arid lands, lichens help stabilize soil and sand.  

Other Uses

Peltigera lichen have been used medically. This includes: Treating wounds, urinary disorders, thrush, cough remedies, tuberculosis, antioxidant, and rabies.

Dog lichen is not typically a mammal food source.

An Engineer?

Lichens are a hard working combination of fungus and algae. They have evolved from a simple scavenging fungus to a lichen by cultivating a ‘symbiotic’ (or mutually beneficial) relationship with algea.

Algea creates the food. The fungus provides the protection and support structure. This organism can live several centuries.

Keep in mind, this sometimes disheveled-looking plant has no roots, stem, flowers, or leaves. It depends on slender holdfasts to stay in place and bears raised orange-ish fruiting bodies along the lobe margins. Simple, yes. Simply amazing. Oh YES.

–Common Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon State University (
–US Dept. of Agriculture, NRCS (
–Wikipedia, Peltigera (
–USDI, Bureau of Land Management, Survey and Manage (
–The New Garden Encyclopedia, Wise & Company
–Royalty free images from

Varieties of Yellow Pond-lilies can be found across the US.

Why is it possible to drown a common house plant and yet there are plants that grow gleefully in water?

The common Yellow Pond-lily has a beautiful bloom and large, heart-shaped floating leaves (nearly 18-inches in length). The bloom is nearly 4-inches and held just above the water surface in spring through early fall.


The Yellow Pond-lily has developed a specialized type of underwater tissue that helps it survive. This tissue, called aerenchyma, facilitates the underwater movement of large amounts of oxygen and other gasses. This tissue holds eight times the amount of oxygen, compared to a house plant.

Respiration in water lily-type plants is anaerobic (meaning the process occurs without oxygen). Many ponds and slow-moving waters where it grows are often low oxygen. This respiration process creates ethanol (a type of alcohol) within the plant’s cells.

This alcohol is poisonous to the plant. To get rid of the alcohol quickly, the plant evaporates it up through the aerenchyma cells and bloom. The pretty yellow blooms smell strongly of alcohol which attract pollinating flies, and create a small bottle-shaped tuber to store sugars in (explains the common European name of ‘Bandy-bottle’).


Yellow Pond lilies have been used in traditional medicines remedies. There are warnings related to tannins and selecting materials from a clean water source (see the Natural Medicinal Herbs website at Note: Not all varieties or parts of the Yellow Pond-lily are edible or appropriate for use.

The Edible Wild Food website ( reports that the Yellow Pond-lily was a common food source for many Native people. Natives leached the rootstocks collected in the spring and winter of tannins and boiled or roasted for flour. Seeds were often cooked like popcorn. Flowers can make a refreshing drink.

The National Park Service reports Yellow-Pond lily species ‘Nuphar polysepalum’ growing in the Denali National Park/Preserve lowlands in Alaska. When cooked, this variety is also tasty (see Denali National Park, Alaska,

Where to find it

Yellow Pond Lilies grow in a wide variety of aquatic habitats as far south as Baja California, and north into Alaska. Habitat ranges from hot desert ponds to ponds frozen more than half of the year!

Want it?

Propagate Yellow Pond Lilies through seed or division and will grows in containers!

For more information, see Plants for a Future at Image is Royalty free from