Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is the Late Autumn Oyster (Sarcomyxa serotina). This is one of my favorite fall edibles and I’ve fortunately found it a few times this year, and just as recently as yesterday. Encountering this mushroom is always bittersweet since it’s one of the last substantial edible mushrooms we’ll encounter for several months.
You may see this mushroom referred to as the “late fall oyster”, the “olive oysterling”, or by the Japanese name “Mukitake”, but I’m going with late autumn oyster because I like the ring of it. The fungus is no stranger to changing scientific names, too, as it was formerly known as Panellus serotinus and Hohenbuhelia serotina to name a couple. The names will keep changing as DNA bounces the taxonomy around, but we’ll focus on the tangible ecological information and whether or not you really should eat this mushroom.
As I began research for this publication I became concerned because there were online whispers that the mushroom was carcinogenic when ingested. That was debunked by Adam Haritan of Learn Your land and conversely, the mushroom actually possesses medicinal properties. One study demonstrated polysaccharides from the mushroom have immunomodulating and anti-tumor properties while another suggested that the fungus could be used for treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, one of the most common liver diseases in industrialized countries (Reference 4 and 5 respectively). Seems like S. serotina is another unheralded and understudied medicinal mushroom that we have growing in the northeast.
There was another study I came across, “Hohenbuehelia serotina polysaccharides self-assembled nanoparticles for delivery of quercetin and their anti-proliferative activities during gastrointestinal digestion in vitro”. Talk about a mouthful. I’m no marketing expert but I do send out a mushroom email that hovers around a 63% open rate. Starting with a “hook” is a great way to get people engaged. Don’t be afraid incite unease or even panic with the title, either - an effective tactic employed by our most trusted news sources. How about “Do late autumn oysters cure or cause cancer? Your life just may depend on the answer.” I’m spitballing here, but there’s certainly room for improvement from the scientific community. Regardless, the gist of the aforementioned study was that compounds in the fungus could help your body absorb quercetin - a beneficial compound found in plants and used to treat a variety of ailments from cancer to inflammation (Reference 6).
The species epithet Serotina comes from the Latin sero- or serotin- which means “late”. This refers to the time of year when you’ll find the mushroom. While called a “late autumn oyster” the mushroom is not considered a true oyster mushroom (Pleurotus) but is instead considered a “pleurotoid fungus”. This means it is a wood-decay fungus that looks like an oyster (Pleurotus) mushroom but has evolved separately from them.
The fungus is saprobic, digesting dead wood of deciduous and sometimes coniferous (evergreen) trees. It seems like the fungus has a penchant for recently dead trees, those where the bark is still attached, which would suggest they’re an early colonizer of dead wood. The fungus can be found in temperate forests and montane areas throughout the northern hemisphere where it fruits, as mentioned a few times now, in the late fall.
The caps of the mushrooms are variable in color and can range from green to orange to brown. The caps of the young mushrooms are almost an emerald green and slimy when they emerge from the substrate, but can turn orange before fading to an olive or tan. The underside features tight gills that are white and fade to a yellowish brown. The gills end at a pseudostem that adjoins the mushroom to the wood. The spores are white and the spore print is white or off-white.
No more evening sunlight. I’m an AM guy though so I do enjoy the earlier sunrise. Hope you all find something nice to enjoy about the shifting seasons,
Kuo, M. (2017, January). Panellus serotinus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/panellus_serotinus.html
Kim JH, Lee JS, Lee KR, Shim MJ, Lee MW, Shin PG, Cheong JC, Yoo YB, Lee TS. Immunomodulating and Antitumor Activities of Panellus serotinus Polysaccharides. Mycobiology. 2012 Sep;40(3):181-8. doi: 10.5941/MYCO.2012.40.3.181. Epub 2012 Sep 30. PMID: 23115511; PMCID: PMC3483395.
Nagao K, Inoue N, Inafuku M, Shirouchi B, Morooka T, Nomura S, Nagamori N, Yanagita T. Mukitake mushroom (Panellus serotinus) alleviates nonalcoholic fatty liver disease through the suppression of monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 production in db/db mice. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 May;21(5):418-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.01.021. Epub 2009 May 7. PMID: 19423319.
Li X, Zhou P, Luo Z, Feng R, Wang L. Hohenbuehelia serotina polysaccharides self-assembled nanoparticles for delivery of quercetin and their anti-proliferative activities during gastrointestinal digestion in vitro. Int J Biol Macromol. 2022 Apr 1;203:244-255. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2022.01.143. Epub 2022 Jan 29. PMID: 35093441.