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Turkey Tail Mushrooms

The Turkey Tail Mushroom or Trametes versicolor is one of the most commonly found species of mushroom in North America.

It is widely used as a medicinal mushroom, and is a great species for beginning foragers to identify.

Close up of Turkey Tail Mushrooms on a moss-covered tree stump.

If you’ve ever spent some time in the woods, you have more than likely come across a Turkey Tail.

Any type of fallen hardwood log or stump often harbors clusters of this beautiful fan-shaped fungi.

Wide angle shot of a cluster of turkey tail mushrooms growing on a fallen log

This mushroom typically grows from May-December, but can be found throughout the entire year.

For whatever reason though, I typically associate Turkey Tails with fall (maybe because its name gets me thinking about Thanksgiving),

How To Identify Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Turkey Tail’s scientific names — Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor — reference the striking multi-colored bands that adorn the mushrooms cap.

The bands can come in an array of all kinds of colors, but they tend to be grey or brown, and they are always covered with small, velvety hairs.

Close up of a turkey tail mushroom or Trametes versicolor

The key to identifying this mushroom, however, lies beneath it.

When flipped over, the underside of the mushroom should be white-ish in color with tiny, uniform pores present.

Over head shot of the underside of a turkey tail mushroom showing its white pores

Like the Chicken of the Woods mushroom, Turkey Tail is a polypore, meaning it releases spores from these tiny pores instead of gills.

Close up of brown turkey tails growing on a tree stump.

Turkey Tail ID:

  • Generally grows May-December, but can be found year-round
  • Grows in shelves or rosettes on fallen hardwood logs or stumps
  • Caps are 1 to 4 inches wide, stem-less and fan-shaped. They feature multicolored bans with small, velvety hairs
  • Underside is white with tiny, uniform pores
  • Spore print: white

Turkey Tail Lookalikes

Trametes versicolor is not the only fan-shaped mushroom growing in the forest.

It has a few very similar looking friends worth noting so you can spot the difference.

False Turkey Tail

Close up of a false turkey tail mushroom or Stereum ostrea

As you may have guessed from its name, the False Turkey Tail or Stereum ostrea can commonly be mistaken for a real Turkey Tail.

Indeed, these two mushrooms can be very similar in appearance. Often times, they can even be found growing side by side.

Image of Turkey Tail and False turkey tails growing together.

Much like the true Turkey Tail though, the key to identifying it lies on the underside of the mushroom.

False Turkey Tails have a smooth non-porous underside, usually beige in color.

Close up of the smooth underside of a False Turkey Tail mushroom

The good news is False Turkey Tails are not poisonous, although they are not particularly tasty or useful as far as we know.

Violet Toothed Polypore

Over head shot of a Violet Toothed Polypore

The Violet Toothed Polypore or Trichaptum biforme can also look very similar to a Turkey Tail.

The key difference is the violet-tinged outer edge and purple colored underside which usually has larger, tooth-like pores.

Multicolor Gilled Polypore

A Multicolor Gill Polypore or Lenzites betulina can also look extremely similar to a Turkey Tail…at least when viewed from the top.

Once you flip it over though, the gill-like underside should easily distinguish it from the white pores you should see on a true Turkey Tail.

How to Use Turkey Tail

DISCLAIMER: Please make sure you can 100% identification before consuming any wild mushrooms. Always consult an expert!

Close up of a cluster of Turkey Tail Mushrooms.

Turkey Tail is a little too tough to munch on, but it can be made into teas, tinctures, and extracts.

How to make Turkey Tail Tea:

  • Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut fresh or dried Turkey Tails into thin strips.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the strips to a small sauce pan and cover with 4 cups of water.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about one hour.
  • Strain the liquid and serve with fresh lemon and/or honey.

Health Benefits

There are a lot of exciting reports about the medical properties of Turkey Tail.

Overhead shot of multiple cluster of Turkey tail mushrooms

It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for respiratory diseases.

Immune support

Even in Western medicine, Turkey Tail has long been regarded for it’s immune benefits.

It can be used to strengthen the body’s defense against colds and flus, particularly in the winter months.

Cancer Treatment

Some studies have shown promising results about Turkey Tails effectiveness in helping fight cancer.

It is important to note that the mushroom was used as a supplement to other treatments like chemotherapy.

There has yet to be any conclusive peer reviewed research proving turkey tail mushroom extract effectiveness as a stand alone cancer treatment, but recent research is promising.

It is incredible to imagine what future studies will determine about this this humble, commonly found mushroom!

How To Identify Turkey Tail Mushrooms

How To Identify Turkey Tail Mushrooms

The Turkey Tail Mushroom or Trametes versicolor is one of the most commonly found mushrooms in North America. It is a great fungi for beginning foragers to identify.

Instructions

  1. Take a walk in a hardwood forest between May and December.
  2. Look on dead hardwood logs and stumps for fan-shaped mushrooms that are growing in shelves or rosettes. The mushrooms should be 1-4 inches wide.
  3. Inspect the top of the mushroom: it should have distinct bands of varying colors and be covered with small hairs.
  4. Inspect the underside of the mushroom: it should be white with tiny pores visible.
  5. Make a spore print of the mushroom: the spores should be white

Notes

Stereum ostrea, or The False Turkey Tail, is a very common lookalike. It has a smooth, non-porous underside that is usually beige in color.

Sharing is caring!

Marlene

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Do you sell Turkey Tail mushrooms from your farm in capsules and their prices please. Thank you.

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