Last Updated - 2/24/2015
Edible Wild Mushrooms Commonly Found In Pennsylvania And Personally Eaten Regularly
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Aborted Armillaria
Armillaria abortivum
Aborted entoloma

Almost Bluing
King Boletus

Boletus subcaerulescens

Artist's Conk
Ganoderma applanatum

Bear's Head Tooth
Hericium americanum

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Piptoporus betulinus

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Craterellus fallax

Clitocybe nuda

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Hypholoma sublateritium

Cauliflower Mushroom
Sparassis spathulata

Chicken of the Woods
Laetiporus sulphureus

Inonotus obliquus

Comb Tooth
Hericium coralloides

Common Laccaria
Laccaria laccata

Corrugated Cap Milky
Lactarius corrugis

Dryad's Saddle
Polyporus squamosus

Giant Puffball
Langemannia gigantea

Golden Chanterelle
Cantharellus cibarius

Hedgehog Mushroom Big
Dentinum repandum

Hedgehog Little
Dentinum umbilicatum

Hen of the Woods
Grifola frondosa

Honey Mushrooms
Armilleria mellea

Horn of Plenty
Craterellus cornucopioides

Horse Mushroom
Agaricus arvensis

Hygrophorus Milky
Lactarius hygrophoroides

Lilac Bolete
Xanthoconium separans / Boletus separans

Lingzhi / Reishi
Ganoderma lucidum & G. tsugae

Lion's Mane / Old Man's Beard
Hericium erinaceus

Meadow Mushrooms / Pinkies
Agaricus compestris

Oyster Mushroom
Pleurotus ostreatus

Purple-gilled Laccaria
Laccaria ochropurpurea

Quilted Green Russula
Russula virescens

Red Chanterelle
Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Rooted Oudemansiella
Oudemansiella radicata

Shaggy Mane
Coprinus comatus

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Cantharellus lateritius

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Fomes fomentarius

Turkey Tail
Trametes versicolor / Coriolus versicolor / Polyporus versicolor

Two-colored Bolete
Boletus bicolor

Voluminous-latex Milky
Lactarius volemus

Winter Chanterelle
Cantharellus tubaeformis
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The Prince ? or Almond Mushroom ?
Agaricus augustus or A. subrufescens
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Inonotus obliquus

Chaga Mushroom

Keep your eyes open for charcoal looking eruptions on birch tree trunks while out-and-about. If you check those eruptions closely you may have found a chaga mushroom, a medicinal mushroom of proven benefit. A treasure to be sure!
Also, while keeping one eye vigilant for black eruptions on birch trees, keep another eye vigilant for Lingzhi / Reishi mushrooms. They are another great medicinal and another to add to the treasure box.
When I say treasure I definitely mean it that way.

Photo of a Chaga mushroom on a birch tree wound - Inonotus obliquus
Chaga growing outwardly from the birch tree trunk wound.

Chaga grows on a few different trees ( not as regularly ) but what you want is the chaga that grows on birch trees. It is the birch tree that has the constituents in it's system that the chaga mushroom uses during it's life cycle ( which is long ) and converts to medicinals that are beneficial to humans.

Other names for chaga are clinker polypore, cinder conk, black mass and birch canker polypore.

Chaga can grow to various sizes, depending on it's age. It can live and grow for decades. It grows in size very slowly so wanton gathering will deplete the resource - similar to what happened to American Ginseng.
If it is over 25 years old you may be looking at a chunk of chaga that weighs in excess of 15 pounds and can extend outwardly from the trunk quite a ways.

Mostly, chaga grows in cooler latitudes or, if more southerly, then at higher elevations.
On the ridges and mountain chains in Pennsylvania, where there are birch trees, chaga can be found with a bit of effort or luck.
It is also possible to stumble upon a find quite by chance. Such occurences are for the memories to be savored during more lean years.

Note the photo above showing the chaga on the tree.

Now look at the photo directly below showing the same mushroom removed from the tree.

Photo of Chaga mushroom mass that has been removed from the tree - Inonotus obliquus

Photo of Chaga mushroom that has been collected - Inonotus obliquus
This chunk of chaga, approximately 2.5 pounds, was removed from the birch tree seen in the first photo.

See what was left on the tree after the big part of the chaga was removed.

The appearance can be described as burned charcoal.
I like to describe it as appearing as if someone had taken chunks of cool charcoal from a previous nights bonfire and Krazy-glued the pieces together randomly into a blob and then attached the blob to a birch tree wound.

The surface of the mushroom can also be described as having the appearance of lava rock. It even has the tecture and heft of lava rock. It is really strange to have a mushroom appear so 'unmushroom-like'.

Photo of a small piece from the large Chaga mushroom masss - Inonotus obliquus
This is a small piece taken from the perimeter of the large chunk that was on the birch.

The chaga mushroom is a parasite on trees. It grows almost exclusively on birch. Probably because it grows more preferentially in colder climates and because it happens that birch grows more prevalently in colder climates most often the association of chaga and birch can be understood.
You can however stumble upon a rare NON BIRCH chaga while out-and-about during mushroom forays.

Chaga causes 'heart rot' ( decaying the heartwood of the birch ) so once you find a mass growing on the tree you can be sure the tree has limited time left.

Chaga mushroom distant
Same chaga zoomed in closer
Same chaga mushroom very close

The mass that is collected from the tree is not actually the 'mushroom' as understood by that term. The black mass is actually the mycelium of the mushroom ( the roots ). The actual mushroom is generally not seen until after the tree dies. The mushroom then produces a fruiting body and from it the spores are produced and dispersed. Definitely a long strategy for survival seeing how that some chaga mycelium can continue it's growth for decades before producing a fertile fruiting body.

The interior of the mass is the desired part. It is what is dried and thereafter processed into various products such as pills, teas, extracts, tinctures, emulsions, tinder powder, etc.

Searching for chaga

Here, in southwestern Pennsylvania, you can find chaga if you go into the 'big woods' and check diligently all the various birch trees that grow along some of the native trout streams.
Diligently means to check the trees from all sides.
It is not unlikely ( i've done it ) to entirely miss a big one because it is growing on the other side of the trunk.

Chaga is not so abundant here that you can find it easily. You will be required to cover some ground.
Also, you need to develope a search method that devotes most of it's time to searching 'up' into the trees since much of the time you will find these black masses high up and out of reach.

It's good to have a set of binoculars with you if your intent is to search for chaga. With a set you can check out blackish looking suspects rather than just dismissing them because of uncertainty. Some of the best chaga specimens I have found were initially just suspects that I would of dismissed as just something else until the binoculars confirmed the alligator skin like texture covering their surface.

Here is my YouTube video of a huge one that I left to grow until needed.

Since we do not have extensive stands of white birch or paper birch you will need to check the birches we do have - gray, black and yellow - wherever they are.

You are apt to find chaga at any time of the year, however, in the fall, winter and early spring while the leaves are down, you will be able to see further into the forest and see more of the upper portions of trees and therefore will be much more likely to find it.
Also, when there has been snowfall oftentimes the chaga mushroom will accumulate a layer of snow on top of the black mass which is a contrast hard to not see while walking about.

Some folks say to limit the harvest of chaga to only those masses that are big and leave the smaller ones behind. That might be a good strategy if you are certain that no one will find that mass in the next 15 years and you are young. However, as more and more people age and get various maladies there is more desire for chaga to cure many of them and such desire will spur a demand.
More people will be searching for this mushroom to fill that desire. The one chaga that you do not harvest will invariably be harvested by someone else.
I am as sure of that as I am sure there is a orifice in my butt.

Depending on the size and the configuration of the chaga mushroom
( they are not always in a clump but may appear as parts around a wound or grow around the edges of a wound in a semi-circle ) an axe / hatchet is a handy tool.
On occasion a chisel and the hammerhead on the hatchet will be better.

Photo of a 7 pound 11 ounce Chaga mushroom being removed with an hatchet - Inonotus obliquus

Storing and uses

The best preservation method for chaga mushrooms is dehydration. You can dry it in it's entirety, by chunks or powdering it up.
Remove some of the obvious dirty parts of the outer black skin and save the brown inner portion.
In the photo below the brown inner portion of the mushroom can be seen.

Photo of 3 pounds 11 ounces of Chaga mushroom chunks - Inonotus obliquus

Trim off some of the outer portion of the chunks - leaving some is okay - then the chunks can be milled or ground into powder and dried thereafter by various means.
A very low oven temperature ( less than 125 degrees ) for many hours, a warm dry location or a food dehydrator set to 120 degrees or so will be great.

After thoroughly dehydrated store in an air-tight container in cool dark place. It will last almost forever that way.

Chaga is a medicinal mushroom of worldwide fame. It has been much studied and a lot of research has confirmed that it has the constituents in it's make-up that fight many diseases, maladies and ills.
There is ton of information on the web so I won't repeat it all here.

You do not need to be ill or in bad health to reap the benefits within Chaga. If you are coffee drinker or tea drinker, and have access to this mushroom, you can get into the habit of adding a little bit of powdered chaga to each cup you drink. Or just brew some of the powder into a tea-like beverage.
Make it second-nature and do so forever. It will be at least one good habit that you have developed.

The mushroom also is a great firestarter. The millions of strands of mycelium that make up the mass that you find, when dry, are spark catchers. A strike from a steel and flint and usually the spark on the chaga piece will create an ember that will glow long enough to manipulate from your hands to a kindling bunch and get a fire started.
For those people into primitive survival crafts chaga is something that needs to be experienced.

Inonotus obliquus. Chaga.
DATE - July 13.
FOUND - In the Laurel Mountains of Fayette and Somerset counties and other areas where there are old birch trees.

Weather conditions are not relevant since chaga is long-lived. What you will likely find will be chaga mushrooms that are at least 5 years old - and more likely - much older than that.

The percentage of the active components in the birch bark differs from one specie to another; Diouf et al. [17] reported in 2009 a 56% betulin in the bark of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton) in Quebec, Canada.

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