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
Common name(s):  Eastern cauliflower mushroom,
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
trees, sometimes on well-decayed wood. Reported on
conifer roots; July through October.    
Dimensions:  The entire complex mass of flattened
branches may be up to 40 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
and are usually palest at their tips. The branches arise
from a buried, branching, central base.      
Edibility: Considered a choice edible when young.
Comments:  DNA studies have helped sort out the
Sparassis species in North America. Of the two
cauliflower mushroom species in the Northeast, S.
spathulata is more common than S. americana.

More information at

More information at

Figure 1. Sparassis spathulata looks like a specimen
of coral. Photo © William Roody.

Figure 2. Sparassis spathulata is the most widespread
Sparassis species in eastern North America.
Photo © George Morrison.

Figure 3. A very young specimen.
Photo © George Morrison.

Figure 4. The undulating, flattened branches give this
species an unmistakable look. Fruit bodies often
occur on the ground at the base of oak trees.
Photo © Larry Grand.

Figure 5. Note the zonate flabellae. Sparassis
the other Sparassis species reported in the
East has thinner, azonate flabellae. Note: The specimen
shown here and in Figure 6 was collected in the woods
at a NAMA foray and placed on the grass for the
picture. Photo © Gary Emberger.

Figure 6. On many specimens, the upper margin of each
flabellum is often a creamy color.
Photo © Gary Emberger.


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