Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Cayman Chanterelle

Mycology is one of my chief interests home in Seattle where the moist forests of the Pacific North-West host a formidable number of fungal species.  Coming on vacation on the Cayman Islands I did not expect to be studying mushrooms.  Of course, it is winter but the sand is dry and the forests are completely different to those at home.

Yesterday, while looking for birds, I stumbled across a huge patch of chanterelles.  They were clearly chanterelles - as you can see from these pictures.  I took a spore print and looked at them under magnification.  I didn't have a measuring eyepiece here so I can't give the size in microns but the shape of the spores was the same as that shown online for chanterelles - smooth oval with a small 'tooth' on one end.

Spores of Cayman Chanterelle.  100X.  No oil!

There are a few distinct differences between these chanterelles and those in the PNW.  Firstly, there are no conifers around here.  They are growing under low dry forest trees and sea-grape.  Secondly, they are a vivid sockeye pink and bright, apricot orange rather than the subtle egg yellow and soft pinks of our varieties.   The closest match I can find is Cantharellus Cinnabarinus which is reported to grow in Eastern Hardwood forests under beech, aspen and hickory.  They are supposed have caps of 1-5cm while mine grow a few cm larger than that range.

Since I was so sure it was some kind of chanterelle and I read online that some local restauranteurs had eaten them, I ate one last night and had no ill effects 24 hours later.  I hope to collect some more to eat later.

I asked a few locals about the mushrooms.  Their responses showed that they know nothing about them, as follows:

"I was told you can't eat the brightly colored mushrooms because they are the poisonous ones."

"It is like this, if animals and chickens eat them, then they are good for us to eat but if these mushrooms are in the forest and not being eaten, they are probably not good to eat."

"Mushrooms?  Did you say MUSHROOMS?  In the FOREST?"

"No, we don't have mushrooms here except the white ones in the Food Mart.  I don't even eat those."

PS.  Please excuse my mushroom spore slide.  It was made on a piece of plastic cut from a catalog lid because I left my microscope slides and immersion oil at home! 


nautilus said...

don't take any chances... is there nothing online about Caribbean chanterelles?

nautilus said...

Beautiful salmon-pink Chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius mushrooms grow under Cayman Islands’ Sea Grape trees in the leaf litter. If you leave a layer of leaves on the ground, you will see these lovely ridged, horn-shaped mushrooms a few days after heavy rains in the winter months. Though they are considered edible, some people are allergic to them, so caution is advised, and, as with any mushroom or wild plant, proper identification is paramount. They are sometimes served in local restaurants during the season; Top-of-the-Falls and The Edge both feature them as occasional specials.

nautilus said...

two kids stories about the Cayman islands are at the bottom of this Cayman nature site:

MushroomanMike said...

I found these in the leaf litter near the beach in Ocho Rios, Tues., 1/14/14.

Shannon said...

Hi Mike,
Can you confirm the ID as the cinnabar red chanterelle? Did you try them?

- Shannon

MushroomanMike said...

Hi Shannon,
I didn't positively ID them (didn’t make a spore print, shame on this amateur mycologist), though they were more of a red/orange than the Cantharellus cibarius we find in NW Ohio late June/early July. I couldn’t detect the fruity/apricot scent I associate with them. I did try/nibble on them, no real taste per se, much like other raw Chanterelles.
Cheers & Happy Hunting,

cheff earth said...

I've found this mushrooms in Tulum Mexico , i couldn't believed it,i remember thinking that i would never settle here because there is not chanterelles he he .
i looked for info online about any reports of anyone finding Cinnabar Chanterelle in the caribean and so far this is the only site,i just wanted to be on the safe side before trying them since they where only found on the pacific northwest but it make sense since the winds come from the north here for the most part.
right now i'm planning on bringing leaves and wood chips to the patches i found so next season it will be more abundant. i let you guys know and post some pics.
Thank you so much for sharing the info