What Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Look Like? A Comprehensive Guide to Identification

Trametes versicolor, or turkey tail mushrooms, can be more difficult to identify than you may think, but these few guidelines will help you figure out if your specimen is what you think it is.

Turkey Tail mushrooms are one of the most common mushrooms in the woods. You have most likely seen them growing on fallen trees and stumps in the forest, even if you aren’t actively searching for them. Even though we’ve all seen plenty of lookalikes and their colors can vary greatly, you really need to pay close attention to the details to make sure that what you have is authentic.

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are a common sight in forests around the world often adorning fallen logs and stumps with their vibrant colors and unique shapes. While they’re easy to spot accurately identifying them can be tricky due to their variability and look-alikes. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to confidently distinguish true turkey tail from its imposters.

Key Characteristics of Turkey Tail Mushrooms:

  • Habitat: Primarily found on dead wood, especially logs and stumps of deciduous trees.
  • Appearance:
    • Upper surface:
      • Thin, leathery, and flexible.
      • Multicolored zones with shades of brown, gray, blue, and sometimes yellow or orange.
      • Velvety or fuzzy texture.
    • Underside:
      • White pores with approximately 1-3 pores per millimeter (imagine 3 pores fitting on the tip of a ballpoint pen).
      • No gills or teeth.
  • Size: Typically 2-10 cm in diameter, but can reach up to 25 cm.
  • Growth pattern: Grows in overlapping clusters, resembling a fanned-out turkey tail.

Identifying Turkey Tail Mushrooms: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Habitat: Is it growing on wood? If not, it’s likely not a true turkey tail.
  2. Undersurface: Does it have pores? If not, it’s not a turkey tail.
  3. Upper surface: Is it thin, flexible, and velvety with distinct color bands? If not, it’s probably not a turkey tail.
  4. Pore size: Are there approximately 1-3 pores per millimeter? Use a magnifying glass for a closer look.

If you answered yes to all these questions congratulations! You’ve likely found a genuine turkey tail mushroom. Remember variability exists due to factors like age, sun exposure, and season. Don’t rely on just one photo for comparison; explore various images to get a better understanding of the range of appearances.

Common Turkey Tail Look-alikes:

  • False turkey tail (Stereum ostrea): Similar in color and shape, but lacks pores and has a smooth underside.
  • Zoned polypore (Lenzites betulina): Similar color zones, but has larger pores and a thicker, less flexible texture.
  • Chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus): Bright orange color, fleshy texture, and grows in large, shelf-like structures.

Additional Tips for Identifying Turkey Tail Mushrooms:

  • Consult field guides and online resources for detailed descriptions and comparisons with look-alikes.
  • Use a magnifying glass to examine the pores and other features closely.
  • Take multiple photos from different angles to capture the mushroom’s full characteristics.
  • If unsure, consult with experienced mushroom hunters or experts in your area.

What to Do with Turkey Tail Mushrooms:

Turkey tail mushrooms are not edible in the traditional sense, but they do have important therapeutic benefits. They can be grown on logs to provide a steady supply of this advantageous fungus, or they can be steeped to make a tea or utilized in medicinal extracts.

Identifying turkey tail mushrooms requires careful observation and attention to detail. By understanding their key characteristics, habitat preferences, and common look-alikes you can confidently distinguish them and appreciate their unique beauty and potential benefits. Remember, responsible foraging is crucial – always leave some mushrooms behind for others to enjoy and ensure the continued health of the ecosystem. Happy hunting!

How to use Turkey Tail

Now, are they good to eat? Heck no. But they do make a medicinal tea and inoculated logs can make a long lasting, fabulous landscape piece. Many Turkey Tail strains were used in our experiments, and the ones that yielded fruit usually did so within a year of inoculation. If you want a consistent supply of Turkey Tail you can inoculate logs with Turkey Tail Plug Spawn. Otherwise a good hunt is a great way to get out and enjoy your natural woodlands.

Turkey Tail Identification Tips

1. As wood-decay mushrooms are the main kind of turkey tails, you should first make sure they are growing on wood. It would be unusual to find them growing on a substrate other than wood.

2. The undersides of Turkey Tail impersonators can exhibit a variety of characteristics, including smooth, gilled, toothed, and even pores. True Turkey Tail has a porous underside with approximately 1 to 3 pores per millimeter. To find the approximate number of pores for each ballpoint pen tip, use a magnifying glass.

3. Does Turkey Tail resemble some of its popular lookalikes with a smooth top, or does it have a velvety, fuzzy top with distinct color bands?

4. Are they thin and flexible? You should be able to bend Turkey with very little effort.

If you answered yes to all of these, its more than likely a true Turkey Tail. Remember that the appearance of fungi can vary significantly based on age, amount of sun exposure, season, and other elements. If you believe something you have is Turkey Tail, look at more than the first picture you come across as there will likely be some variation in color.

Is Turkey Tail The Holy Grail Of Medicinal Mushrooms? (Ultimate Guide)


Are there any poisonous look alikes to turkey tail mushroom?

The good news about turkey tails is that they are 1) common & easy to identify, and 2) there are no toxic/poisonous look-alikes! Yay! So, if you only learn one mushroom, make it turkey tail.

Can you eat turkey tail mushroom?

Before harvesting, be sure you have correctly identified that the mushroom is turkey tail and not a look-alike. Though turkey tail is edible, the texture can be described as tough and leathery. For this reason, wild-harvested turkey tail is usually dried, ground into a powder, and consumed as tea.

What is a false turkey tail mushroom?

Stereum ostrea is one of the colorful mushroom belongs to Stereaceae, Basidiomycota. The fungus S. ostrea is inedible due to its tough, leathery texture and is often called the ‘False turkey tail’, since it mimics Trametes versicolor. Like the ‘True turkey tail’, S.

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