Turkey tail, also known as Trametes versicolor, is a medicinal fungus that can be found worldwide. It is one of the most studied and sought-after mushrooms for its immunomodulatory properties. You might assume this amazing fungus is simple to spot in the wild, given its vibrant, feather-like resemblance to a turkey, but that isn't exactly the case. On the contrary, both novices and experts can be duped by mushroom lookalikes that resemble Turkey tails. One of these is the fake Turkey tail or Stereum ostrea.
Turkey tail mushrooms are typically considered to be a "safe" fungus to forage for because there aren't any toxic species that resemble them. But unlike these functional mushrooms, which are prized for their health-supporting compounds, similar mushrooms lack them.
This article will help you correctly identify the true turkey tail and highlight the differences between Turkey tail vs. false Turkey tail.
False Turkey Tail Vs. Turkey Tail: The Difference
The mushroom most frequently mistaken for Turkey tail is the false Turkey tail, scientifically known as Stereum ostrea. However, they also sprout on stumps and fallen logs of deciduous trees, much like Turkey tail mushrooms. Other characteristics that it shares with the "true" turkey tail are the following:
- Thin and flexible.
- Rings of concentrated growth on the cap.
- Irregular outer edges.
So, what is the difference between Turkey tail mushroom vs false Turkey tail mushroom?
Turkey tail mushrooms have purple, brown, red, and dark blue hues, while a false Turkey tail has a bright orange hue. In addition, the underside of a Turkey tail is white, while it is yellow or tan on the false Turkey tail.
The false Turkey tail has a smooth underside devoid of pores. The underside of the false Turkey tail mushroom is a defining characteristic. Its underside is smooth because it is a crust fungus.
This sets it apart from the Turkey tail mushroom, which has tiny pores. Green algae often grow on the fresh false Turkey tail mushroom. The Turkey tail has no algae growing on it. Its growth is yet another distinguishing trait. The Turkey tail frequently has plane growth, but Stereum ostrea often bends upward to the margins.
Correctly Identifying Turkey Tail
Turkey tail mushrooms come in various hues, from brown and red to dark blue and purple, making them simple to mistake for other species. However, the steps below will guarantee that you correctly ID Turkey tail.
Are there any visible concentric zones on the mushroom? The mushroom is known as "turkey tail" because of how its colorful rings mimic a turkey's tail. The cap of a real Turkey tail mushroom is divided into different color zones that don't overlap.
Is it flexible and thin? Turkey tail mushrooms that are fresh are between one and three millimeters thin and bendable. After harvest, Turkey tail toughens and loses flexibility as it ages. It's not a real Turkey tail if you've got a thicker and stiffer mushroom.
How does it feel? Turkey tail mushroom's cap contains incredibly fine hairs that give it a velvety feel.
Is the underside white? The underside of fresh Trametes versicolor is white. The color of the mushroom may become slightly off-white or soft white as it ages. The false Turkey tail has a yellow, brown, or tan underside.
Are there pores on the underside? Turkey tail mushroom has tiny pores on its underside because it is a polypore fungus.
What Other Wild Fungi Resemble Turkey Tail?
Two more species are misidentified as Turkey tail mushrooms:
1. Gilled polypore (Trametes betulina).
2. Violet-toothed polypore (Trichaptum abietinum).
Both species are polypores, like the real Turkey tail, as you can probably infer from their names. They also have irregular outer margins, and concentric growth rings on the cap.
Benefits Of Turkey Tail Mushroom Vs. Turkey Tail Lookalikes
According to one study, Stereum ostrea(1) contains antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it effective against particular infections. According to the study, this fungus has long been used for folk remedies, even without knowing which compounds are responsible. Although there is a growing body of evidence supporting the ethnobotanical uses of this mushroom to treat both human and plant diseases, scientific proof still needs to be provided.
The gilled polypore, Trametes betulina, belongs to the same family as the turkey tail, thus the similar initial name. This and the Trametes group both possess some antioxidant properties(2). However, it falls short (regarding health benefits) because its mix of health-supporting substances is less varied and rich than that of actual Turkey tail.
There currently needs to be more studies on the Turkey tail lookalikes. But, on the other hand, true Turkey tail's health benefits are well understood because it is one of the mushrooms that science has studied the most.
Turkey tail mushrooms contain polysaccharide-K and polysaccharopeptide, which have many health benefits, including:
- Increases the immune response(3) of the body.
- Promotes better digestion and reduces stomach discomfort.
- Helps maintain cortisol levels during stress so that the body can regulate itself.
- Fights free radicals.
- Encourages a beneficial inflammatory reaction.
- Has antioxidant qualities that help the health of the liver.
FAQs About Turkey Tail Vs. False Turkey Tail
Are There Any Poisonous Turkey Tail Look Alikes?
Fortunately, none of the Turkey tail mushroom lookalikes are poisonous. This makes Turkey tail a safe mushroom to forage.
Is Turkey Tail Toxic?
Unlike some other mushrooms, Turkey tail fungus is not poisonous. In addition, it does not require special preparation to be safe.
Can You Eat False Turkey Tail?
False Turkey tail, or Stereum ostrea, is inedible due to its tough, leathery texture. However, even if you mistakenly encounter a false Turkey tail mushroom, you shouldn't be alarmed because none are poisonous.
False Turkey tail is the most notable of the many lookalikes of Turkey tail. Although these polypore mushrooms have similar physical traits, it is pretty easy to tell the difference between Turkey tail vs. false turkey tail.
- Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Stereum ostrea, an Inedible Wild Mushroom, (1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763174/
- Assessment of anti-inflammatory, lipid peroxidation and acute toxicity of extracts obtained from wild higher basidiomycetes mushrooms collected from Akure (southwest Nigeria), (2)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23510251/
- Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology, (3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/
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