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When mushrooms grow on trees, they rarely attract attention from mushroom pickers. Among them are tree mushrooms, which are edible and tasty. They can be identified using a variety of identifying features.

In a nutshell

  • some tree fungi only edible when young
  • Oyster mushroom tastiest tree fungus
  • correct identification is essential
  • high risk of confusion between edible and poisonous tree fungi
  • important identification features: smell, appearance and occurrence

Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)

  • Genus: Mushrooms (Pleurotus)
  • Odour: spicy, mushroomy
  • Taste: mild
  • Cap: up to 20 centimeters in diameter, silvery greyish, smooth, shell-shaped, initially involuted edge
  • Flesh: White, tough with age
  • Stem: mostly short, sometimes absent or conspicuously long (usually on deciduous trees), thick, firmly attached to the cap, felty base
  • Lamellae: white, later creamy white to yellowish, wavy edges, not extending to the stem
  • Powder color of the spores: whitish to light violet-grey
  • Occurrence: dead or living deciduous trees, rarely on conifers, usually from mid-November to spring
  • Risk of confusion with other oyster mushrooms such as yellow-handled mussel (Panellus serotinus) or ribbed oyster (Pleurotus cornucopiae)
  • Special features: lateral growth up to ten meters in height possible, much tastier fresh from the tree than from the supermarket, as a medicinal and vital mushroom health-promoting for, for example, a stronger immune system and increased blood pressure

Tip: Since the stalks and cap skins are usually very fibrous and tough, the stalks should not be eaten and the cap skins should be cooked for a long time.

Oak liver sapling (Fistulina hepatica)

  • Trivial names: liver rice shrimp, liver fungus or ox tongue
  • Genus: Liver snail (Fistulina)
  • Odour: pleasant mushroom scent
  • Taste: mild, slightly sour aroma
  • Hat: between five and 35 centimeters in diameter, between six and nine centimeters thick, in various shades of red from beige-red to blood-red to dark red, white edges, radial stripes, secretes slimy, resin-like secretion, easily peelable skin, smooth edge, console shaped
  • Flesh: soft consistency, red as from raw meat
  • Stem: lateral stalk, irregular
  • pale yellow pores turn reddish to reddish-brown with age
  • Powder color of spores: light brown
  • Occurrence: in mixed forests, prefer deciduous trees such as oaks and beeches in calcareous soils from summer to late autumn
  • Danger of confusion: Cinnamon-colored soft porous (Hapalopilus nidulans), oak tongue (Buglossoporus quercinus), oak iris (Inocutis dryophila), red trameta (Daedaleopsis confragosa)
  • Special feature: Can be eaten when young, as it is at its tastiest; is often processed into mushroom powder

Squirrel (Polyporus umbellatus)

  • Common names: Branchy Porling, Branchy Tufted Porling
  • Genus: (Pedunculate) Porlings (Polyporus)
  • Odour: pleasant mushroom scent
  • Taste: nutty, bitter with age
  • Fruit bodies: two to seven centimeters in diameter, clustering up to 100 centimeters in diameter, brownish speckled, creamy to hazel colored
  • Flesh: whitish to creamy white, thin and fragile structure
  • Stem: cream-colored to light brownish, arises in the middle
  • cream to light brown pores/tubes, separating in older specimens
  • Spore powder color: White
  • Occurrence: Deciduous tree feet, like oaks, from early summer to autumn
  • Risk of confusion: rattle sponges (Grifola), broad-leaved hens (Sparassis brevipes)
  • Special features: triggers white rot, popular edible mushroom, in Chinese medicine as a medicinal and vital mushroom - used primarily against tumors

Common Rattlepong (Grifola frondosa)

  • Common Names: Leaf and Spatula Porling, Maitake (Japanese)
  • Genus: Rattlesponges (Grifola)
  • Odour: pleasant mushroom scent
  • Taste: mild aroma
  • Cap: three to seven, rarely up to nine centimeters in diameter, formation of tufts from individual caps up to 50 centimeters in diameter, tuft-like or rosette-like growth, grey-brownish, fibrous or wrinkled surface
  • Flesh: light brown
  • Stem: grey-brown, branching with numerous thinner branches
  • white to off-white or creamy-brown pores/tubes, no print blackening
  • Spore powder color: White
  • Occurrence: mostly near oak and chestnut roots, rarely on linden and beech roots, from summer to late autumn
  • possible confusion with squirrels (Polyporus umbellatus), mountain (Bondarzewia) and giant polypores (Meripilus giganteus) as well as ruffed hens (Sparassis crispa)
  • Special features: only young specimens are edible, often used in natural medicine

Notice: The rattle sponge can grow to an enormous size that other (edible) tree fungi cannot reach. In 2022, one specimen was clearly recognizable as a rattle sponge, but it weighed more than 20 kilograms.

Velvet foot beet (Flammulina velutipes)

  • Common Names: Velvet Foot, Winter Mushroom, Enoki (Japanese name)
  • Genus: Velvet foot russets (Flammulina)
  • Odour: pleasantly mushroomy
  • Taste: mushroomy, slightly sweet, very aromatic
  • Cap: two to nine centimeters in diameter, rarely up to 20 centimetres, yellowish-brown to honey-yellow, sticky, lighter border, young mushrooms have a curved edge
  • Flesh: white to light yellow
  • Stem: up to 10, sometimes up to 15 cm long, up to 1 cm in diameter, pale tip, dark brown base, fibrous, tough and rubbery, ringless structure, hollow stalk in older specimen
  • Lamellae: white to light yellow
  • Powder color of spores: white
  • Occurrence: mainly on deciduous trees, usually from late autumn to spring
  • Specialties: popular edible mushroom in East Asia, is cultivated there, winter mushroom

Sulfur Porling (Laetiporus sulphureus)

  • Trivial names: egg polypore, hardwood sulfur polypore
  • Genus: Sulfur Porlings (Laetiporus)
  • Odour: slightly sour, fungus-like, fruit-like, very aromatic
  • Taste: sour, bitter with beech and oak growth, mild with willow and birch growth
  • Fruit bodies: up to 30 centimeters in diameter, light yellow, orange to yellowish brown, fan-shaped, velvety soft
  • Flesh: dirty to off-white or faded white, dry, brittle in texture, older specimens are tough and hard
  • Stem: absent, horizontal growth on the tree trunk
  • yellow, off-white pores/tubes
  • Powder color of spores: white
  • Occurrence: on deciduous trees and conifers such as spruce and fir
  • to be confused with softwood sulphurous polypores (Laetiporus montanus) and cinnamon-colored soft polypores (both very poisonous), scented golden polypores (Auriporia aurulenta) and giant and mountain polypores
  • Special features: one of the aggressive wood destroyers, only edible as young tree fungi, raw and not edible if it grows on a poisonous tree (poison can be transferred to the fungus)

Tabby Saw Leaf (Lentinus tigrinus)

  • Common name: Tabby tangle
  • Genus: Lentinus
  • Odour: pleasant mushroom scent
  • Taste: mild as a young mushroom, older specimens have a bitter aroma, itchy throat
  • Cap: four to nine, rarely up to twelve centimeters in diameter, light yellow with black-brown scales
  • Flesh: white tones, thin structure, tough
  • Stem: brown, yellowish to brown-black scales, white stem base, slender, deep-rooted, three to nine centimeters long, up to four centimeters in diameter
  • Lamellae: white to white-yellowish with age, finely serrate edges
  • Powder color of spores: white
  • Occurrence: Alluvial and deciduous forests, tree stumps, poplar, birch and willow branches, from spring to autumn
  • Possible confusion with scaly sawbill (Neolentinus lepideus), bitter dwarf knot (Panellus stipticus), stink parakeet (Lepiota cristata)
  • Special feature: older specimens are inedible due to their high toughness - only young tree mushrooms are edible

Judas ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)

  • Common names: Elder mushroom, Mu-Err (Asia)
  • Genus: Earlobe Fungi (Auricularia)
  • Odour: neutral, sometimes musty, smelling of earth
  • Taste: gelatinous, similar to gummy bears, mild aroma, often tasteless
  • Cap: one to 13, more rarely up to 16 centimeters in diameter, ear shape with veins, finely felted, pale grey, more rarely yellow or whitish
  • Flesh: brownish transparent, gelatinous, shrinks when dry and apart again when moist, tough
  • Stem: if present, attached to the cap, short-stalked and brownish
  • Fruit body: hairy, white spore mass on underside
  • Spore powder color: white to off-white, yellowish
  • Occurrence: Hardwoods, especially birch and elder, mostly from winter to spring, less often from spring to autumn
  • Possible confusion with Little Judas Ear (Schizophyllum amplum), Silver Fir Foxglove (Cyphella digitalis), Cup Linger (Peziza)
  • Special features: edible tree fungus very popular in Asian cuisine, can be eaten raw, vital and medicinal mushroom in naturopathy and Chinese medicine

Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus cornucopiae)

  • Common names: horned oyster, branched oyster mushroom
  • Genus: Mushrooms (Pleurotus)
  • Odour: mealy, often smelling of aniseed, slightly fungal
  • Taste: mild, slightly floury
  • Cap: up to 15 centimeters in diameter, light brown, grey, yellow or fuchsia-brownish, funnel-shaped, incurved, mostly wavy, partly torn edge
  • Flesh: white, yellowing and tough with age
  • Stem: between two and nine centimeters long, one to three centimeters in diameter, white, light or grey-brown, mostly white tomentose base, longitudinal grooves
  • Lamellae: off-white, creamy-white, often tinged with pink, thin and closely spaced grooves
  • Spore powder color: violet, violet-brown to light violet-grey
  • Occurrence: dead hardwoods, especially on willow, elm and poplar, from spring to late autumn
  • slight confusion with other mushrooms possible, such as ear-shaped mushrooms (Pleurocybella porrigens) and lemon mushrooms (Pleurotus citrinopileatus) as well as oyster mushrooms
  • Special feature: can be recognized by the smell of flour compared to other oyster mushrooms

frequently asked Questions

Does the anistramete fall under the tree fungi?

Yes. It is also known as Fragrant Tramete because of its sweet, lovely smell. However, this type of mushroom is inedible, although not poisonous.

What to do if tree fungi cannot be clearly identified?

If you cannot clearly identify tree fungi or earth fungi, you should consult a specialist before collecting them or leave him on the spot. Under no circumstances should you try to reach a determination through taste. If it is a toadstool, even a small bite can have health consequences.

Can tree fungi damage trees?

Yes. Brown and white rot are among the most damaging diseases when they develop on living wood. Especially the common sulfur polypore (Laetiporus sulphureus) and the birch polypore (Fomitopsis betulina) are known for brown rot. Tree fungi are harmful parasites that cause decomposition on dead wood.

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