(SOURCE: NCBI database)

  PHYLUM: Basidiomycota
CLASS: Agaricomycetes
ORDER: Cantharellales
FAMILY: Cantharellaceae

cf. Craterellus odoratus (left) & cf. Cantharellus cibariusChanterelles are famous because they are wonderful to eat. In Europe they are highly regarded, the name Chanterelle being the French name. In German they are called Pfifferlings. These names apply specifically to the species Cantharellus cibarius. The picture at the right shows two species plucked from the woods near my home in Mississippi, and I think the one on the right is the true Chanterelle, while the one on the left, I think, is Craterellus odoratus. I have to say "I think" because there's still some confusion among the specialists about what's what, and I'm not even a specialist.

Most members of this highly edible family are yellow to orange and grow on the forest floor. The ones above grew in colonies looking as if someone had thrown a dishpan of orange peels onto the forest floor. Notice that the one on the left has no gills at all, and the one on the right has only shallow gills, which are more like wrinkles than gills. If you'll check the above Classification Box you'll see that not only are chanterelles in a different family from regular gilled mushrooms, but also an entirely different order. Spores fall from the bottoms of the caps whether the bottoms are smooth or wrinkled.

Most members of the order Cantharellales are saprotrophic -- they derive their nutrients from dead organic matter, and thus help decompose plant remains. They can do this because they digest cell-wall cellulose or lignin.