Eastern American Jack O’ Lantern

Jack O' Lantern, False Chanterelle

Omphalotus illudens

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The Eastern American Jack O’ Lantern mushroom is a gilled fungus known for its bright orange hue. Its name stems from its bioluminescent properties: the gills of mature specimens can emit a faint greenish glow in the dark. While visually appealing, this mushroom is toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms if consumed.

Eastern American Jack O’ Lantern

Common Name
Eastern American Jack O’ Lantern

Other Names

Jack O’ Lantern, False Chanterelle

Latin Name

Omphalotus illudens

Distribution

Predominantly in the eastern parts of North America.

Appearance

Bright orange cap, gills, and stem. Unlike true chanterelles, which they can be confused with, the Jack O’ Lantern has true blade-like gills that are sharply attached to the stem. The aforementioned bioluminescence of its gills is also a defining trait.

Size

The cap diameter usually ranges from 5 to 20 cm, with a similar height for its stem.

Habitat

This mushroom often grows on decaying hardwood stumps or buried wood.

Diet

Saprotrophic, feeding on decaying wood.

Lifecycle

Starts as spores, which germinate into mycelium underground or within wood. When conditions are favorable, the mycelium will produce fruiting bodies (the mushrooms), which, once mature, release spores to continue the cycle.

Defense Mechanisms

The mushroom contains compounds that are toxic to humans, inducing symptoms like vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. This deters potential predators from consuming it.

Ecological Importance

By breaking down dead and decaying wood, it plays a vital role in nutrient cycling within forest ecosystems.

Conservation Status

Common in its range and not considered endangered.
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