Pleurotus ostreatus, the “Oyster Mushroom,” is the quintessential pleurotoid mushroom: it is a gilled mushroom with a very short stalk that fruits from the sides of logs. Oyster Mushrooms are some of the best edible wild mushrooms; they are fairly easy to identify, they are meaty, and they appear in large numbers. Additionally, you find them in late fall and winter, when the woods are otherwise boring places for mushroom hunters. Although it grows on hardwood logs in nature, P. ostreatus will decompose pretty much any plant material, which makes it very easy to cultivate. As an added bonus, the Oyster Mushroom attacks nematodes. That’s one cool mushroom, right?
agaric mushrooms with a short or missing stipe
The gilled mushrooms, informally referred to as ‘agarics,’ are the type of mushroom with which we are most familiar. The most common edible mushrooms (white/button/portabella mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms), Amanita muscaria – the most recognizable mushroom in the world and the inspiration for almost all mushroom art – and the ‘magic mushrooms’ are all gilled mushrooms. All these mushrooms share one feature: vertical plates of spore-producing tissue stacked under a sterile cap.
Pleurotoid mushrooms are agarics that have a single common feature: they lack a well-developed stipe. Originally, I was not going to include pleurotoid mushrooms as a distinct agaric morphology. Their other physical characteristics vary widely and they belong to multiple unrelated taxonomic groups. To anyone classifying mushrooms, grouping them based on pleurotoid growth is decidedly unhelpful. However, it is a useful group from a field guide standpoint because it quickly reduces the number of possible matches. Eventually, I decided to discuss the pleurotoid mushrooms because they are often mentioned in field guides and because “pleurotoid” is a commonly-used mushroom descriptor.
Crepidotus species are small, brown-spored agarics that grow on wood and either lack a stipe or have a diminutive stipe. These features are usually enough to separate Crepidotus species from mushrooms with a similar habitat and morphology; most other morphologically similar mushrooms produce pale spores. Although commonly encountered, Crepidotus is not useful for anything and the mushrooms go ignored by most seasoned foragers.
This little brown mushroom isn’t much to look at… at least during the daytime. At night, however, the unassuming mushroom reveals its most interesting feature: it glows in the dark! Known as the “Bitter Oyster,” “Luminescent Panellus,” or “Bitter Oysterling” (if you live in Europe), Panellus stipticus looks like a small, brown oyster mushroom. A helpful feature that separates it from most other oyster-like mushrooms is that it has a tough texture.
Commonly known as the Split Gill, this little mushroom is easily distinguished by its small gills, which appear to be split lengthwise. The Split Gill is a notable mushroom because of its unusual morphology, ecology, and genetics. Before I get into the bizarre world of fungal sexes, I would like to describe the physical characteristics of this distinctive mushroom.
Note: This is an archived post. Read the current version of this post here. The oyster mushroom is one of the few species of mushroom that you can routinely find at a grocery store. This is due to the fact that it is saprobic (it degrades dead plant material) and is easy to cultivate across a range of substrates. P. ostreatus will decompose pretty much anything with cellulose: from logs to sawdust to straw to toilet paper. Oyster mushrooms are often sold in grow-at-home mushroom kits, usually with a substrate like sawdust. In nature they are usually found on logs or standing dead trees. Occasionally you will find them growing terrestrially from buried wood. The Oyster prefers hardwoods, but can also be found on conifers. The name “Oyster Mushroom” refers to their shape and color, rather than taste. The fruiting bodies are semicircular to shell-shaped or fan-shaped, with a short or...