Good afternoon friends,
This week's mushroom is Laetiporus cincinnatus, commonly known as chicken of the woods. This mushroom was found growing on oak (Quercus) on 6/22/2021 as I was biking home from work. I was thrilled to see a mushroom, let alone this choice edible, growing right on Central Park West. The first picture provides a neat juxtaposition of the vibrant mushroom, and nature's resiliency, against the harsh cityscape.
L. cincinnatus is one of two eastern Laetiporus species that goes by the moniker "chicken of the woods" - the other species being Laetiporus sulphureus. They both grow summer through fall and are native to North America east of the Rockies. L. cincinnatus is unique in that it has a lighter hue than L. sulphureus, and this fungus is a butt rot, so it appears on the roots/base of trees. L. cincinnatus is saprobic (consumes the dead wood) on oaks and it may even be parasitic - in which case it would be consuming the living wood. To break it down a step further: the two major chemical components in plant cell walls are cellulose and lignin - brown rot fungi (like Laetiporus) consume the cellulose and white rot fungi go after the lignin.
L. cincinnatus is known as chicken of the woods because of its similarity in taste and texture to chicken. The entirety of the mushroom is edible, but some people do report gastrointestinal issues after eating it. When consuming mushrooms you foraged you should always be positive of the identification. You should also always cook them because mushrooms are made of chitin - the same material that comprises insect exoskeletons and gastropod shells - which is indigestible to humans. The heat from cooking breaks down the chitin. I thought about eating this mushroom but was talked out of it because it was right in the splash-zone of the street and was also at the level where a dog could easily soil it. Nonetheless, it is still there as of yesterday if a braver soul wants to give it a try - although it becomes tougher and less palatable as it gets older.
Stay cool this week,
1) Kuo, M. (2017, November). Laetiporus cincinnatus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/laetiporus_cincinnatus.html