There are lots of yellow mushrooms in the wild; some of them are edible, while others are poisonous. In this article, we’ll compare the wild yellow oyster mushroom vs. the jack o’lantern mushroom. We’ll talk about their similarities and differences, how to tell them apart, and why it’s important to know the difference between them. Ready to get started?
What You'll Learn Today
What is a Jack O’Lantern Mushroom?
Jack o’lanterns are poisonous mushrooms that grow in tightly packed clusters. They are dark yellow to orange in color, and they have smooth, round caps that flatten out and tear over time.
Jack o’lanterns are easy to confuse with other types of mushrooms, including edible varieties such as chanterelles and wild yellow oysters. However, jack o’lanterns are toxic and can cause several days of digestive upset if eaten.
These mushrooms typically grow in summer and fall, and they tend to sprout directly from dead tree trunks or rotting wood buried underground.
Jack o’lanterns are bioluminescent mushrooms; their caps glow in the dark when they are young. According to Forest Wildlife, they do this to attract insects which in turn help to spread their spores.
Jack o’lanterns are found throughout Europe as well as parts of Africa and North America.
Check out this video to learn more about jack o’lantern mushrooms.
What is a Wild Yellow Oyster Mushroom?
The yellow oyster is an edible variety of mushroom that looks similar to the jack o’lantern. Yellow oysters, as the name suggests, are yellow in color, and they grow in large clusters much like jack o’lanterns do.
Yellow oysters have round caps flattening to ruffly funnel shapes as they mature. Their stems tend to be short on undefined, and it may appear that each distinct mushroom in a cluster is simply a layer of a single massive mushroom.
Several yellow oyster clusters may grow together to form bands. They grow on hard wood and seem to especially prefer dead tree trunks and fallen logs; they may sometimes appear to grow from the ground when they are really growing from dead wood buried just below the surface.
Yellow oysters produce so many spores that the mushrooms may appear to “smoke” several times in a season. This leads to massive colonies of mushrooms in relatively small areas.
Yellow oysters are native to Asia but are now found growing throughout Europe and North America as well.
Wild yellow oysters grow in the fall and winter but can be cultivated at home fairly easily and grown throughout the year. They are an edible mushroom with a nutty flavor and a tender texture.
To learn more about wild yellow oysters, check out this video:
What are their Similarities?
As you can probably tell from the descriptions above, jack o’lanterns and wild yellow oysters have several similarities. Let’s take a closer look at those similarities.
- Both grow from dead wood: jack o’lanterns and wild yellow oysters both prefer to grow from hardwood trees, and dead hardwoods appear to be their ideal host. Both types of mushrooms can be found growing from the base of dead tree stumps, fallen logs, and dead wood buried underground.
- Both grow in clusters: though jack o’lanterns can rarely be found growing singly, they are more often grouped into tight, round clusters. Wild yellow oysters also grow in clusters, some of which can be quite expansive.
- Both are yellow in color: jack o’lanterns tend to be a darker yellow, and some are almost orange, while wild yellow oysters tend to a lighter shade. Still, to a casual observer, the fact that these mushrooms are both yellow can make them difficult to distinguish.
- Both are similar in shape: both jack o’lanterns and wild yellow oysters begin as clusters of small yellow “buttons” which flatten out as they mature.
What are their Differences?
Of course, considering wild yellow oysters are edible and jack o’lanterns are toxic, you may be more concerned about what they don’t have in common. What are some of the differences between these two types of mushrooms?
- Wild yellow oysters are edible: this, of course, is the obvious one. Yellow oysters are enjoyed for their soft nutty flavor and can be used in a wide variety of dishes and recipes, while jack o’lanterns will make you sick if you eat them.
- Cluster size: Jack o’lanterns tend to grow in smaller clusters than wild yellow oysters. While jack o’lantern clusters may have twelve or more mushrooms in a cluster, wild yellow oysters may have several dozen.
- Scientific classification: As you might have guessed, these two types of mushrooms belong to different families. Jack o’lantern mushrooms belong to the omphalotus genus, while wild yellow oysters are in the pleurotus genus.
- Slightly different seasons: Jack o’lanterns grow in the summer and fall, while wild yellow oysters tend to appear a little bit later. Yellow oysters can be found from the late fall through the winter months in many regions.
How to Tell a Wild Yellow Oyster from a Jack O’Lantern
If you’re new to foraging, your best bet is to have someone show you the differences between these two mushrooms. You certainly don’t want to harvest a bunch of jack o’lanterns thinking that they are wild yellow oysters.
Despite their similar appearances, jack o’lanterns and wild yellow oysters have several distinctive qualities. One of the most noticeable is their gill patterns and coloring.
Wild yellow oysters have gills that are white and perfectly straight. These gills all travel parallel to each other and, in most cases, are visible all the way down the stem.
Jack o’lanterns, on the other hand, have yellowish gills which are not as perfectly straight as the gills of wild yellow oysters. Jack o’lantern gills are highly distinctive and have the classic mushroom look, but they tend to be more crooked than wild yellow oyster gills.
As noted above, wild yellow oysters are typically a lighter yellow while jack o’lanterns are a darker amber to orange color. Wild oysters tend to grow in much larger, banding clusters, while jack o’lanterns tend to grow in roundish clumps.
Another major difference is that yellow oyster mushrooms don’t glow in the dark as jack o’lanterns can.
Yellow oysters have a flatter, wider shape than jack o’lanterns, which tend to be more round. Yellow oysters sometimes appear to be growing in layers from a single base, while jack o’lanterns appear more like a bouquet of flowers.
Again, it’s important to learn these differences from an expert and make sure you know exactly what you are harvesting when you forage for mushrooms. If you have any doubt at all whether the mushrooms you harvested are edible, err on the side of caution and don’t eat them.
Jack o’lantern and wild yellow oyster mushrooms look strikingly similar, but they each have several unique if you know what you’re looking for. Make sure you properly identify your mushrooms before eating them, as wild yellow oysters are edible but jack o’lanterns are not.