Sparassis spathulata

Scientific nameSparassis spathulata (Schwein.) Fr.
Derivation of name:  Spathul- means "little spade" or
"blade" in reference to the appearance of the individual
Synonyms:  S. herbstii Peck
Misapplied name: S. crispa
Common name(s):  Cauliflower mushroom; Eastern
cauliflower mushroom.
Phylum:   Basidiomycota
Order:   Polyporales
Family:   Sparassidaceae
Occurrence on wood substrate:  Saprobic/parasitic;
solitary or in groups on the ground at the base of oak
or pine trees or sometimes on well-decayed wood; July
through October.    
Dimensions:  The entire complex mass of flattened
branches 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 to pale yellow to tan. The
flabellae are zonate, with distinct color zonations. The
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
species of Sparassis in North America.

More information at
More information at   

Figure 1. This looks like a type of reef coral more than a
head of cauliflower. Photo © William Roody.

Figure 2. Sparassis spathulata is the most widespread
Sparassis species in eastern North America. Photo
© 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 picture. Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 5. On many specimens, the upper margin of each
flabellum is often a creamy color. Photo © Gary


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