Also known as ‘chicken of the woods,’ Laetiporus sulphureus is a fungus that commonly produces a shelf-like fruiting body on decaying wood in the early Fall, though it may also be found grow on living trees or apparently from the ground where it can grows on buried wood or roots. As it can be seen in the image to the left (figure 1), the fan-shaped cap generally forms in clusters of wrinkled, pale orange-topped fungi with a distinctly sulfur-yellow hymenium and can be anywhere from 5-50 cm broad. Often soft and watery when young, the fruiting body often becomes tough and can develop unpleasant flavor in age. The pores of this species are often 2-4mm broad and 1-4mm long (figure 2) and are a bright yellow in this specimen, though becoming pale in age. The stalk of this species is more or less absent and appears as a narrowing of the fan-shaped cap. Human sensory and mass-spectral analysis of the volatile compounds constituting the aroma of this specimen was performed in the lab of Dr. Randolph Beaudry in the Department of Horticulture. Sensory terms used to describe this specimen were ‘sweet’, ‘earthy’, and ‘lemon-y’ and the most abundant compound identified by GC/MS analysis was 3-octanone. While this lab had no standard of 3-octanone on-hand for comparison, pure 2-octanone elicited a similar sensory profile – though it should be noted that minor changes in molecular structure can have major effects on sensory characteristics.
L. sulphureus has been reportedly found on a variety of hardwoods and conifers and in a wide range of habitats across the United States and beyond. This particular specimen was found on a rotting log amongst mixed hardwood forest after a period of heavy rain in late September and had been harvested previously. It is a well-known edible and is relatively easy to identify as there are no common look-alikes. However, before consuming any edible mushroom be absolutely sure of your identification and always cook thoroughly. As its common name suggests, L. sulphureus has the texture of well-cooked chicken and is quite tasty. This particular specimen was fried up in butter and added to an egg scramble with diced green pepper and cheddar cheese (figure 3).
Identification and characteristics:
Aurora, D (1986) Mushrooms demystified. Second Edition. Ten Speed Press. Berkeley, CA10.05.16