Turkey Tail Mushroom Identification: A 4-Point Checklist

Turkey Tail Mushroom Identification

Luckily, when it comes to turkey tail mushroom identification there are no toxic lookalikes. So, it is a safe mushroom to forage for, even if you don’t end up finding “the real thing.” Because, yes, there are mushrooms that look similar but will not contain the health-supporting compounds that turkey tail (scientific name Trametes versicolor) is known and valued for.

So, use our 4-point checklist below to help you find the real deal. You can then put your newfound powers of mushroom deduction skills to good use on your next forest walk. If you decide to forage what you find, you can take some fresh turkey tail home to make a healthy tea.

Turkey tail mushrooms grows abundantly on dead trees and logs in the wild. They are one of the most common forest mushrooms. Turkey tail can come in a wide range of colors, and one can look quite different from another.

But it doesn’t end there. Some other mushrooms look very much like Trametes versicolor, making things more confusing. These imposters are commonly called “false turkey tail mushrooms,” and include Stereum ostrea, Stereum hirstum, and Trichaptum abietinum.

Real versus false turkey tail mushroom
Stereum ostrea aka “false turkey tail” (left) is often mistaken for the real thing. One way to tell the difference: algae often grows on S. ostrea.

So, how can you tell the difference between “true” and “false” turkey tail mushrooms?

If you come across what looks like Trametes versicolor on your hike, flip the mushroom over. A true turkey tail fungus has visible pores on its white underside, hence why it is classified as a polypore (i.e. many pored) mushroom. Whereas, S. ostrea and S. hirstum have yellow, smooth undersides. You will also commonly find S. ostrea mushrooms (fruiting bodies) with algae on them (1).

If you can answer “YES” to all the following questions about the mushroom you’re observing, then you’ve found true turkey tail!

  1. Are there pores on the underside of your mushroom? See the image below for what these should look like.
  2. Does the top side of the mushroom have very fine hairs making it velvety to the touch?
  3. Are there concentric bands of different shades on the top side of the mushroom?
  4. Is the fresh mushroom thin and flexible (see the video below)?
The underside of turkey tail, like all polypore mushrooms, has tiny pores. Each of these pores contains spores that the fungus releases for reproduction.

This video shows the various features of true turkey tail mushroom. It gets up close and personal with this mushroom to show you the fine velvety texture, its concentric bands of colors, and how pliable the mushroom should be.

The video below not only walks you through how to identify Turkey Tail mushrooms, but how to brew a traditional tea from your foraged findings!

You may want to reap the benefits of turkey tail mushroom without the labour of finding and preparing this fungi. In that case, you can use a mushroom extract in powder form, such as Real Mushrooms’ Organic Turkey Tail Extract.

Simply add 1 to 2 tsp of the powder to a cup of hot water and enjoy this earthy and highly beneficial tea.

Want more information on how taking turkey tail as a supplement or tea can support your health? Read our article Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits & Science: A Complete Guide.

1. Volk, T. 2000, “Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for November 2000,” Tom Volk’s Fungi, <https://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/nov2000.html>.



Real Mushrooms is driven by the desire to deliver the best possible medicinal mushrooms extracts in their purest form, without any carriers or grain fillers.

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Real Mushrooms

Real Mushrooms is driven by the desire to deliver the best possible medicinal mushrooms extracts in their purest form, without any carriers or grain fillers.