Wild Guide

By MDC | January 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: January 2021
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Turkey Tail




Cap width: 1-4 inches



Turkey season may be over in Missouri, but there are still turkey tails to chase — the mushroom variety. These edible mushrooms grow on deciduous trees in groups, rows, or clusters, often layered. The clusters are leathery and thin and the cap is semicircular to spoon-shaped. The bands of colors on the cap make the turkey tail easy to recognize.

Did You Know?

Turkey tails have two lookalikes — the false turkey tail (Stereum ostrea) and the multicolor gill polypore (Lenzites betulina). Though people have eaten mushrooms for thousands of years for various purposes, be certain of your identification before consuming any mushroom. For help, consult A Guide to Missouri’s Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZYM.

Life Cycle

This species lives within rotting logs as a whitish network of cells (mycelium) that digests and decomposes dead wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the mushroom that emerges from the log — this is the reproductive structure. In polypores, spores are produced in the pores on the underside and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.

Ecosystem Connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood. It plays an important role in breaking down the tough materials wood is made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.

Also In This Issue

Monarch Butterfly
Serving Nature and You: Fiscal Year 2020.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler