Scientific name: Sparassis spathulata (Schwein.) Fr.
Derivation of name: Spathul- means "little spade" or
in reference to the appearance of the individual
Synonyms: S. herbstii Peck
Common name(s): Cauliflower mushroom; Eastern
Occurrence on wood substrate: Saprobic/parasitic;
or in groups on the ground at the base of oak
or pine trees or
sometimes on well-decayed wood; July
Dimensions: The entire complex mass of flattened
may be up to 35 cm wide and high.
Description: This fungus occurs as a compact cluster of
upright, flattened, undulating, leaf-like branches (called
flabellae) which have entire margins. It resembles a large
head of leafy lettuce or a brain
or perhaps cauliflower. The
overall color is white to cream
yellow to tan. The
flabellae are zonate, with distinct color zonations.
branches arise from a
buried, branching, central base.
Edibility: Considered a choice edible when young.
Comments: Bear in mind that the scientific name of this
species is quite confused in field guides and elsewhere.
See Light, et al. for an informative summary of recent
DNA and morphological studies that shed light on the
Sparassis in North America.
More information at TomVolkFungi.net:
More information at RogersMushrooms.com:
Figure 1. This looks like a type of reef coral more
head of cauliflower. Photo © William Roody.
Figure 2. Sparassis spathulata is the most widespread
Sparassis species in eastern North America.
© Cathy Cholmeley-Jones.
Figure 3. The undulating, flattened branches give this
species an unmistakable look. Fruit bodies occur on
the ground at the base of oak or pine trees. Photo
© Larry Grand.
Figure 4. Note the zonate flabellae.
The other Sparassis
species reported in the East have azonate flabellae. Note:
This specimen and the specimen in Figure 5 were
collected in the woods at a NAMA foray and placed on
on the grass for the
Photo © Gary Emberger.
Figure 5. On many specimens, the upper margin of each
flabellum is often a creamy color. Photo © Gary