Edible Mushrooms That Grow on Dead Trees

By Lucy A. Fazely
sulfur shelf mushrooms on tree

Wild mushrooms are a fungus. They frequently grow on the ground, on trees, on fallen logs or on stumps. Some mushrooms help to decay dead wood, others destroy live trees and still others have a relationship that is beneficial to both the mushroom and the tree. When harvesting wild mushrooms to eat, noting where the mushroom is growing is an important part of identifying it. There are many edible mushrooms, but there are also wild mushrooms that are poisonous to humans -- and some look like the edible species. Be sure to get a good guide that includes photos of the mushrooms, descriptions of the edible mushroom as well as any poisonous mushrooms that may look similar. Do not consume any mushroom you are not fully educated about. There are many false beliefs about how to tell if a mushroom is poisonous or not, so do not count on rumors such as "if you can peel it it's safe," or "if a wild animal eats it it's safe for humans."

Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceous)

bearded tooth mushroom on tree

A type of tooth fungus, the bearded tooth has groupings of white strands that resemble fur. When fresh, it is pure white. It yellows with age. It can grow up to a foot in diameter, making it easy to spot in the forest where it grows on trees, fallen logs and stumps. These have also been called hedgehog mushrooms and bear's heads.

Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)

oyster mushrooms on tree

Found on trees and fallen logs, these mushrooms have a large white to tan colored cap shaped like an oyster shell. The short stems are off-center with gills running down the sides of them. Typically they are found in clusters dense enough that the caps overlap one another.

Sulfer Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)

sulfur shelf mushrooms

Named for the bright red-orange caps and sulfur colored pore surfaces, this mushroom is also called Chicken of the Woods. It has no stems. The caps attach directly to the tree or log in large overlapping groups of caps up to a foot wide.

Hen-of-the-Woods (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the Woods mushrooms

This large ruffled clump can grow to weigh as much as 100 pounds and can be found on stumps and at the base of trees. The feather like caps overlap each other and it looks like a ruffled white chicken.

About the Author

Lucy A. Fazely, author of the coffee table book "Quilt Style," is a writer and designer whose work has been published in books, national magazines and online for 25 years. Her varied interests include fiber arts to screenwriting and everything in between.