The golden chanterelle, also known as Cantharellus californicus is making waves because, starting in 2024, it’s going to be California’s official state mushroom. Ash Kalra, a state rep (D-San Jose), championed this idea to showcase the breadth of California’s incredible natural diversity. The decision to designate the California Golden Chanterelle was a resounding “yes” from Californians, showing their love for the state’s rich biodiversity.
Over 4,000 fungiphiles voted in the contest held to choose the state’s mushroom. The choices were golden chanterelle, black trumpet, candy cap, king bolete, lion’s mane, and western jack o’ lantern mushrooms. Just seeing all of those mushrooms listed makes your head spin when you consider just how many species California has beneath the soil. However, it was the golden chanterelle that came out on top.
Found primarily in the Bay Area and extending to regions like Oregon, this mushroom thrives under live oak trees. Its mycorrhizal relationship with oak trees helps keep the soils healthy. The Pacific region’s winter rains play a crucial role in the fruiting of these chanterelle mushrooms, which are not only an integral part of the region’s biodiversity, but also among the most sought-after edible mushrooms for foodies.
The California Golden Chanterelle is quite the standout with its sizeable appearance and a light, fruity smell that some say reminds them of apricots. Mycologists revere it because it has some traits that set it apart from its mushroom cousins, like the Cibarius. But, it’s got a sneaky look-alike – the jack o’ lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olivascens). It’s a bit of a trickster as it looks like chanterelle but grows on dead wood and is toxic.
Adding the Golden Chanterelle to California’s list of state symbols, which already includes the majestic redwood tree and the pretty California poppy, is a big win for mushroom fans. This move got a thumbs-up from mushroom societies and enthusiasts all over, especially those who are fans of other types like the black trumpet and Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca.
By officially recognizing the Golden Chanterelle, California is not just honoring this amazing mushroom but also spotlighting the critical role fungi play in our ecosystems. It’s all about celebrating and preserving the natural beauty of the state and boosting public awareness of how vital these fungi are for a diverse and thriving environment.