Turkey Tail mushrooms are one of the most common mushrooms in the woods. You have more than likely seen them growing on fallen trees and stumps in the forest, even if you are not actively looking. While we've all seen them, there are also plenty of look-a-likes and their colors can be widely variable, so you really need to turn your attention to the details to make sure that what you have is not an imposter.
Turkey Tail Identification Tips
1. The first thing you want to look for is- Are they growing on wood? Turkey Tail is first and foremost a wood-decay mushroom, so it would be unusual to find them growing on a non-wood-based substrate.
2. Do they have pores on the underside? Turkey Tail look-a-likes can have a variety of different undersides, displaying anything from smooth to gilled, to toothed. True Turkey Tail has a porous underside with approximately 1 to 3 pores per millimeter. For reference, you're looking for about 3 pores per tip of a ballpoint pen (handy tip: use a magnifying glass).
3. Do they have a silky, fuzzy top with distinct color bands? Turkey Tail will have a velvety top while some of it's common look-a-likes have a smooth top.
4. Are they thin and flexible? You should be able to bend Turkey with very little effort.
If you answered yes to all of these, it's more than likely a true Turkey Tail. One thing to note is that there is a lot of variability in the fungi's appearance base on age, sun exposure, season, etc. If you have something you think is Turkey Tail, look at more than the first photo you come across as you'll likely have some color variation.
Now, are they good to eat? Heck no. But they do make a medicinal tea and inoculated logs can make a long lasting, fabulous landscape piece. We trialed many strains of Turkey Tail and the strain we landed on usually fruits within the same year of inoculation. If you want a consistent supply of Turkey Tail you can inoculate logs with Turkey Tail Plug Spawn. Otherwise a good hunt is a great way to get out and enjoy your natural woodlands.