Craterellus cornucopioides (L.) Pers. - Horn of Plenty

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Cantharellales - Family: Cantharellaceae

Craterellus cornucopoides - Horn of Plenty, Hampshire UK

A very deep funnel characterises this sombre, edible fungus, which is variously known as the Trumpet of Death and the Horn of Plenty. The fruitbodies grow on soil under deciduous trees; they are tough-skinned and so they rarely get infested with maggots, and they can be found well into the winter months.

This mushroom, apparently as one species, occurs in North, Central and South America, throughout Europe (from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean) and Asia as well as in Japan.

Craterellus cornucopoides - Horn of Plenty, Alentelo, Portugal

Distribution

Localised in Britain and Ireland, but often abundant where it does occur, the Horn of Plenty is found throughout Europe as well as in many parts of North America.

Above: In a shady spot at Haliotis, in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal, I found this and several other small groups of Craterellus cornucopioides. The grey-brown colour of the infertile (inner surface) can darken with age.

Craterellus cornucopoides - Horn of Plenty

Taxonomic history

Carl Linnaeus described this species in 1753 and called it Peziza cornucopioides; Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, in his 1825 publication, gave it the name Craterellus cornucopioides. Synonyms include Cantharellus cornucopioides (L.) Fr., and, perhaps much more surprisingly, Pleurotus cornucopioides (L.) Gillet.

Etymology

In Greek mythology one version of the origin of Cornucopia (and there are several others) was that it a magical horn that the young Zeus accidentally broke from the head of the goddess Amalthea, who has suckled the child while he was hidden away from his father Cronos (or Kronos), who made a habit of eating his new-born sons to thwart the prophesy that he would be overthrown by his son. Zeus survived and overthrew Cronos. The horn of Amalthea, the Cornucopia, inherited the goddess's divine power of providing unending supplies of nourishing food. Craterellus cornucopioides, commonly called the Horn of Plenty, does on occasion provide a bountiful source of food, but on its own it certainly does not constitute a balanced diet and its availability is limited to just a few weeks of the year.

Identification guide

cap of Craterellus cornucopioides

Cap

The funnel-shaped cap has an inrolled margin; its diameter ranges from 4 to 8 cm, and the colour of the upper (infertile) surface varies from grey-brown to dark grey or black; with wrinkled marginal striations.

The outer (fertile or hymenial) surface is grey, pruinose and longitudinally finely wrinkled.

Stem of Craterellus cornucopioides

Stem

The grey pruinose, longitudinally finely wrinkled stem is hollow right down to the base, towards which it tapers slightly.

Spores of Craterellus cornucopioides

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal, smooth, 11.5-16 x 7-10μm; hyaline.

Show larger image

Spore print

White

Other microscopic characters

The basidia are slenderly clavate (club shaped) and each has two sterigmata. In contrast, the Chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius, and the Trumpet Chanterelle Cantharellus tubaeformis produce four spores per basidium, while the basidia of Craterellus cinereus (rather similar in appearance to the Horn of Plenty but with a much more deeply wrinkled hymenial surface) are distinguished by being five spored.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

This hard-to-spot species is most frequently found in deciduous forests under Beech trees, but it also occurs with oaks.

Season

June to November - even into December in mild autumns in southern Britain. In Mediterranean countries and the Iberian Peninsula this fine edible mushroom can be found well into the New Year.

Similar species

Cantharellus cibarius is a bright yellow or yellow-orange fungus of similar form and size.

Cantharellus tubaeformis has a brownish cap and a yellow stem.

Craterellus cornucopoides - Horn of Plenty, in Alentelo, Southern Portugal

Culinary Notes

Craterellus cornucopioides tastes a lot better than it looks. These mushrooms can be dried (over a radiator or in a warm oven with the door open) and then stored in airtight jars for future use. We also make them into a sauce and then freeze meal-sized portions in (labeled!) polythene bags or plastic boxes. This way we can have a lovely mushroom sauce with meals through the winter.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

British Mycological Society, English Names for Fungi

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding.

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