Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Chicken mushroom - Laetiporus sulphureus

Family: Fomitopsidaceae


"This common fungus, which causes heart rot of living trees, has also been known as Polyporus sulphureus. The shallow tubes develop late, and young fruiting bodies appear smooth on the lower surface. The fruiting body fades to a pale whitish yellow with age. Less common is Laetiporus cincinnatus, similar but with an apricot-orange upper surface and whitish pore surface, which grows from roots, especially of oak. It is also edible when young. Although this species is edible for most people, gastrointestinal upsets have been reported. The young edges of the fruiting bodies are most desirable for eating; the older portions soon become quite tough." [MOFMUS Huffman]

Summary: " Laetiporus conifericola forms conspicuous annual shelving masses of orange or yellow, semicircular to fan-shaped fruiting bodies with a yellow pore surface. It is common in the Pacific Northwest. This species has long been known under the name Laetiporus sulphureus (Bull.: Fr.) Murrill, but that taxon has been found to represent several species including Laetiporus conifericola characterized by habitat on conifer species, far western distribution in North America, and spores 6.5-8 x 4.0-5.0 microns, (Burdsall(6)). L. conifericola is found in BC, WA, OR, ID, and elsewhere including AK, CA, NV, (Burdsall)." [E-flora]

Cap: "up to 25cm along wood, projecting 15cm, and 3cm thick, shelving, dimidiate [roughly semicircular]; bright orange to salmon orange, (Burdsall), 5-50(70)cm long and up to 4cm thick, fan-shaped to elongated along wood or semicircular; red-orange to bright orange, yellow-orange, sulphur-yellow, or salmon (margin usually yellow), fading when old to yellowish, buff or dull whitish; "smooth to suedelike, often uneven or wrinkled", (Arora), up to 40cm wide, semicircular to fan-shaped, yellow to orange when fresh, fading to brownish or even whitish when old or drying; minutely tomentose to bald, not zoned to faintly zoned, radially furrowed; margin the same color, often wavy, rounded, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]
Flesh: "up to 2cm thick; pale yellow, (Burdsall), thick, soft, and watery when fresh, becoming tough and then crumbly; "white to pale yellow or salmon-tinged"; when very young often exuding yellow or orange droplets, (Arora), up to 2cm thick, "brittle and sappy or succulent when fresh, drying crumbly or chalky"; white, not zoned, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]
Pores: "2-4 per mm, nearly circular at first, becoming more angular when old, decurrent on stem to its attachment, 1-5mm long, (Burdsall), 2-4 per mm, bright sulphur yellow "but often darkening when bruised and fading slowly in age", tube layer 0.1-0.4cm thick, (Arora), 3-4 per mm, angular, walls of pores thin and becoming torn, sulphur yellow when fresh, drying pale tan, tube layer up to 0.4cm thick, sulphur yellow when fresh, drying pale buff; sometimes underside of cap is sterile, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]
Stem: "absent or with broad lateral stem, (Burdsall), absent or present only as a narrowed base, (Arora), absent or lateral and not well developed, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]
Odor: "fungal or rather pungent (Arora), nut-like, pleasant, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]
Taste: "nearly mild or acidic becoming quite sour or unpleasant when old, (Arora), nut-like, pleasant, (Gilbertson), of chicken (Schalkwijk-Barendsen)"[E-flora]
Spore Deposit: "white (Arora)"[E-flora]

Similar Species: "Laetiporus gilbertsonii has smaller spores and grows on hardwoods (especially on Eucalyptus and Quercus) in the US states bordering Mexico and the Pacific Ocean and (var. pallidus) in US states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, (Burdsall). Laetiporus huroniensis occurs on mature and overmature conifers (on old large diameter conifers), in eastern North America and in its Great Lakes region [known as far west as Wisconsin], and has spores 5.0-7.0 x 4.2-5.0 microns, (Burdsall). Laetiporus sulphureus, found in temperate parts of the eastern US [documented as far west as Minnesota], grows on hardwoods and has smaller spores (5.5-7 x (3.5)4-5 microns) than L. conifericola, (Burdsall). Laetiporus sulfureus sensu stricto could either represent a clade that is found in Europe, North America and South America exclusively on hardwoods or a clade that appears to be restricted to Europe and occurs on hardwoods and conifers, (Banik)."[E-flora]

COMMENTS: "One of the "Foolproof Four"- the brilliant yellow-orange shelving masses are unmistakable. Actually, nothing is foolproof, but the sulfur shelf is certainly intelligence-proof.... Fresh specimens can be so soft that it's difficult to handle them without leaving fingerprints. They are full of water and weigh far more than their size suggests (I have found clusters weighing over 50 pounds!). ... The cap color ranges from deep orange to yellow or salmon, but the fresh pore surface is always sulfur- yellow-except in the rare var. semialbinus, which has a salmon-colored cap, white pores, and a frequently rooting base. Polyporus sulphureus and Grifola sulphurea synonyms. Other species: L. persicinus is a southeastern species that usually grows in stalked clumps; it has whitish to creamy pores and a buff to pinkish-brown or darker cap." [MushDemyst]


"on mature conifer, (Burdsall), annual, single or more often in overlapping clusters on dead stumps and logs, or sometimes on living trees or from roots, (Arora), single or in shingled clusters up to a square meter or more in extent, causes brown cubical butt rot of living hardwoods and conifers, "also on dead standing and fallen trees, stumps, and utility poles", (Gilbertson), fruiting in fall, taking about 4 weeks to develop, (Schalkwijk-Barendsen)" [E-flora]
"Solitary or more often in overlapping clusters or shelving masses on dead stum ps and logs, sometimes also on living trees or sometimes growing in rosettes from roots or buried wood; usually appearing on the same stumps year after year; widely distributed and common. In our area it fruits mainly in the late summer and fall, but old fruiting bodies may persist for months. It grows on a wide range of hardwoods and conifers. In coastal California it favors eucalyptus (September-October, ushering in the new mushroom season) and to a lesser extent conifers and oaks (November-December). In the Sierra Nevada it is common on fir in the summer; in eastern North America it favors oak. It causes a destructive red-brown carbonizing heart rot that eventually hollows out the tree, producing cracks in the wood in which thin sheets of white mycelium may appear. It is said to have caused considerable damage to British sailing vessels." [MushDemyst]

Edible Uses

"delicious when thoroughly cooked, but caution advised because poisoning has occurred, this species should never be eaten raw, tough and sour when not young, margin more tender than the rest of the fruiting body, (Arora), allergic and gastrointestinal symp" [E-flora] "Edible and delectable when thoroughly cooked. However, there have been several cases of sulfur shelf poisoning on the west coast, so try it cautiously the first time and never eat it raw. When young the succulent flesh has a mild flavor, tofu-like texture, and ..Candy Corn"-like color, making it especially attractive and delicious in omelets. Maturing specimens are tougher and develop a strong sour flavor; their texture when cooked is reminiscent of white chicken meat, so they're good in sandwiches. If the specimens you find are mature (but not so old as to be asbestos-like)" you can trim offthe tender, rapidly growing margin (about 5 cm), and perhaps return later for more!" [MushDemyst]


"Chicken of the Woods(Laetiporus (Polyporus) suiphureus)has been reported to contain alkaloids similar to those found in plants known to be psychoactive, like Kava Kava. (Lincoff& Mitchel(1977))." [GGMM Stamets]


Page last modified on October 6, 2023