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Chicken Of The Woods Vs Jack O Lantern [With 5+ Similarities]

Be it a beginner Mycologist or a seasoned one, distinguishing Chicken Of The Woods vs Jack O Lantern could be a daunting task, given their close resemblance. 

Generally, both fungi have similar orange caps with yellowish stems, making them look like one. However, upon close observation, you’ll notice the difference in size, shape, growing habits and a rare illuminating trait. 

So, read on to learn in detail about the features of both mushrooms for easy identification.

Chicken Of The Woods Vs Jack O Lantern: Similarities

Many people confuse Chicken Of The Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) for Jack O Lantern (Omphalotus illudens) due to their similar appearance. 

Most of it has to do with the orange caps creating a dilemma to identify the mushrooms correctly. 

So, here are some major features to set these look-alikes just like the Bicolor Bolete look-alikes.

  • Both mushrooms actually grow from late summer all through the fall. 
  • They have a fleshy, thick texture with meaty flavors. However, the flavor is more intense and rich in Chicken Of The Woods.
  • Chicken Of The Woods cannot have solitary growth, similar to Jack O Lantern. They grow in clusters. 
  • These mushrooms are adapted to moist and humid conditions more like a woodland environment. 
  • Interestingly, you’ll find many look-alikes of Chicken Mushroom and Foxfire Mushroom in the wild. 

Chicken Of The Woods Vs Jack O Lantern: Differences

The mushrooms Chicken Of The Woods and Jack O Lantern hold the potential to deceive you for one another.

Both are fungi but belong to a different class altogether.

The Chicken Mushroom is from the class Polyporales, but the Jack O Lantern belongs to the class Agaricomycetes.

Following the botanical difference are a few visual distinctions between Chicken Of The Woods vs Jack O Lantern that will help you with easier identification. 

1. Plant Size & Appearance

Jack O Lantern Mushrooms are generally small compared to Chicken Of The Woods.

The caps are usually a few inches to around 6 inches in diameter. 

Starting with a convex cap when young, the cap gradually starts flattening out as they mature.

While the Chicken Of The Woods has a flat, fan-shaped cap ranging from 1 to 2 feet. 

2. Gill & Pores

Another important factor differentiating Chicken of the Woods vs Jack O Lantern is the presence of either gills or pores.

Similar to the regular Portobello Mushroom, Jack O Lantern has true gills on the underside of its cap. Gills are thin blade-like structure that also releases spores. 

A collage of Chicken Mushroom on the left and Jack O Lantern on the right
A side-by-side comparison will help you understand the feature better.

But gills are absent in the Chicken Mushroom. Instead, their underside is covered with small, yellow pores.

For Chicken Of the Woods, these pores are the reproductive organ responsible for holding and spreading the spores. 

3. Growth Habits

Despite both the mushroom growing on dead or dying hardwood, the Jack O Lantern can grow on softwood trees as well. 

You’ll find the Chicken Mushroom growing in trees like Oak, Maple and Beech.

These mushrooms grow in shelf-like clusters that attach to the side of trees, logs or stumps. 

On the other hand, Jack O Lantern has a habit of growing in clusters densely packed together.

Also, they can be found on various trees, including pines, firs and aspens. 

4. Bioluminescent Trait

The Mushroom Jack O Lantern got its name for its rare glowing quality in the dark.  

Now you know how to identify Jack O Lantern vs Chicken Of The Woods if you happen to be in the wild when it’s dark.

They are not like legit bulbs but emit a subtle pale greenish-yellow light known as bioluminescence.

While bioluminescence is believed to be due to the spore’s dispersal, the light is actually produced by an enzyme called luciferase.
A portrait of jack O Lantern glowing in the dark.
The glowing effect makes this mushroom look visually mesmerising.

Moreover, this unusual trait helps the mushroom attract insects, which helps them spread its spore. 

5. Mushroom Toxicity

Among the two look-alike mushrooms, one is a delicacy while the other is super poisonous.

Edibility is a major distinguishing factor between Chicken Of The Woods vs Jack O Lantern. 

You might have had the Chicken Mushroom grilled, sauteed or even in some gourmet Risotto. However, the Jack O Lantern is non-edible and has the potential to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal discomfort.

And sometimes the after-effect could be life-taking as well.

Accoring to a case study, Jack O lantern mushroom poisoning in seven adults had them hospitalized with various symptoms

That said, even edible Chicken Mushrooms can have allergic reactions if you are sensitive.

Form Editorial Team

Be Mindful To Avoid Mishaps!

Although Chicken Of The Woods is edible, you need to make sure to limit your portion. 

Excessive consumption can also have several negative health impacts like stomach aches and food poisoning, similar to the inedible Jack O Lantern.

Also, we do not recommend or encourage to experiment with the poisonous variety. 

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