Wild, edible mushrooms in Montana are tasty treats for the amateur and expert mushroom hunter. While there are a number of edible species, remember a word of caution: Never harvest mushrooms that you aren't sure of and don't depend on knowledge learned in other regions or countries.
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While many Montana mushrooms appear in spring, some are best hunted in fall. New mushroom hunters should go out with experienced guides and with an illustrated Montana mushroom guide in hand.
Apricot Jelly Mushrooms
The apricot jelly mushroom (Guepinia helvelloides) is the only member of its species. Also known as the candied red jelly fungus, this colorful orange to pink mushroom is found growing from the humus-rich soil in conifer forests, sometimes springing from a fallen and decayed tree. It is described as having a trumpetlike shape and the texture of a dried apricot. Look for single and clusters of these mushrooms from spring through fall.
Bear’s Head Mushrooms
Also known as combtooth, conifer coral and western coral hedgehog mushroom, the bear's head mushroom (Hericium americanum) is an impressively large white to cream growth found growing on fallen conifers in fall. The draping branches are somewhat similar to fanciful stalactites or icicles hanging from the eaves in winter, leading to its other common name: icicle mushroom.
Bolete Mushroom Family
The bolete mushroom family has numerous members, but the one to look for in Montana is the king bolete (Boletus edulis). As large as a dinner plate, it is found under oak trees in fall. To distinguish it from a similar mushroom that will make you sick, the false king bolete (Boletus huronensis) is more often found in hemlock forests; simply look at the bottom of the hood. King boletes have a whitish stem and a beige skinlike texture with tiny pores. The false king bolete is pale yellow with yellow spores, and when they are bruised, they turn to a bluish-green.
Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms
The golden yellow shelflike fungi growing on hardwood trees and some conifers are the chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). Found on tree trunks, old stumps and exposed tree roots, the suedelike exterior of this tasty fungus varies in color from bright yellow to orange. The pore layer is usually white to lemon yellow. Look for chicken of the woods in fall, but if it's your first time with this mushroom, only try a little to make sure you aren't one of the unlucky few who are allergic to this species.
Golden Chanterelle Mushrooms
Look for golden chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) in early autumn and fall in the soil of conifer forests. The funnel-shaped caps range from bright orange to yellow with wavy margins, while the underside features orange-yellow ridges down the otherwise smooth-textured orange to yellowish or white stalks. There are several lookalikes, but the most common, the jack-o'-lantern (Omphalotus illudens), grows on stumps or buried wood and features sharp-edged gills.
Morel Mushrooms in Montana
The primary Montana morel mushrooms are the yellow (Morchella esculenta) and black (Morchella elata). Found in late spring along riverbanks and cottonwood groves and around aspens, morels feature a brainlike texture. Experienced mushroom hunters track the previous year's forest fires, as morels tend to appear in the burn zones. While morels may vary in size and color, both yellow and black morel caps are firmly attached to the stalk; if the lookalike mushroom's cap is not attached, don't pick it.
White Matsutake Mushrooms
You'll find white matsutake mushrooms (Tricholoma magnivelare) in early fall amid the hemlock and white pines. Growing from the soil, these mushrooms are easily identified by their spicy scent. The firm white flesh of white matsutakes is best enjoyed when the mushrooms are young, and the caps are still closed.
- Issuu: A Beginner’s Guide to Montana Mushrooming
- (406) Montana Real Estate: Gourmet Mushroom Hunting in Montana Just One More Reason to Live Here - A Comprehensive Guide
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus Sulphureus Species Complex)
- Montana Outdoor Radio Show: Fungi for the Fun Guy: Montana Mushrooms