|Sulphur shelf (Laetiporous sulphureous) is a very easily distinguishable mushroom that grows throughout most of the world. Also known as the chicken of the woods, the chicken mushroom, and the chicken fungus (not to be confused with the hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa)). It is, as one might expect, an edible mushroom with a taste quite similar to lemony chicken. Individual "shelves" range from 2-10 inches across. These shelves are made up of many tiny tubular filaments (hyphae). The mushroom grows in large brackets - some have been found that weigh over 100 pounds (45 kg). It is most commonly found on wounds of trees, mostly oak, though it is also frequently found on yew, cherry wood, sweet chestnut, and willow. Though it does grow off of a living tree, sulphur shelf is not a parasite, though it may cause decay.|
Young mushrooms are characterized by a moist, rubbery, sulphur-yellow body with bright orange tips. Older mushrooms become pale and brittle, pungent, and are often dotted with termite holes. About half of the population has an allergic reaction to this type of mushroom, with cases being more pronounced in older mushrooms. Due to all of these factors, the mushroom should generally only be eaten when young, and one should always only try a small amount the first time. Similar species include Laetiporous gilbertsonii (fluorescent orange, more amorphous) and L. coniferica (common in the western United States, especially on red fir trees). Both share the same edibility traits.
The sulphur shelf mushroom is, to stretch the term, a perennial - it comes back year after year. From late spring to early autumn, the sulphur shelf thrives, making it a boon to mushroom hunters and a bane to those concerned about the health of their trees. Rarely, however, does the fungus prove fatal to its host, though it may cause its host tree to decay to the point where wind or hail could knock it down.
The mushroom can be prepared in almost any way that one can prepare chicken. Additionally, it can be frozen for long periods of time. In certain parts of Germany and North America, it is even considered a delicacy. Despite the apparent ease of identification, extreme care should be taken on identification if one intends to eat any mushroom, as many species are toxic and potentially fatal poisoning can occur.
I nearly didn’t post this image because of the distractions in the BG, but I gave in because this is the best ‘COTW’ I have ever found. It was on a tree in my local church yard.
Thank you for taking the time to look.