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Laetiporus sulphureus in Belgium
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Polyporales
Family: Fomitopsidaceae
Genus: Laetiporus
Murr. (1904)
Type species
Laetiporus speciosus
Battarra ex Murrill (1904)

Laetiporus is a genus of edible mushrooms found throughout much of the world. Some species, especially Laetiporus sulphureus, are commonly known as sulphur shelf, chicken of the woods, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus because it is often described as tasting like and having a texture similar to that of chicken meat.


Laetiporus sp. from Anamalai Hills, Southern Western Ghats, India

Individual "shelves" range from 5 to 25 centimetres (2 to 10 inches) across. These shelves are made up of many tiny tubular filaments (hyphae). The mushroom grows in large brackets; some have been found that weigh over 45 kilograms (100 pounds).

Young fruiting bodies are characterized by a moist, rubbery, sulphur-yellow to orange body sometimes with bright orange tips. Older brackets become pale and brittle almost chalk-like, mildly pungent, and are often dotted with beetle or slug/woodlouse holes.

The name "chicken of the woods" is not to be confused with another edible polypore, Maitake (Grifola frondosa) known as "hen of the woods/rams head” or with Lyophyllum decastes, known as the "fried chicken mushroom".



L. cincinnatus, Ohio

Phylogenetic analyses of ITS, nuclear large subunit and mitochondrial small subunit rDNA sequences from a variety of North American species have delineated five distinct clades within the core Laetiporus clade:[1]

In addition, phylogenetic clades have been identified from Japan, Hawaii, South America, Europe, and South Africa.[2]



The name Laetiporus means "with bright pores".[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The sulphur shelf mushroom is most commonly found on wounds of trees, mostly oak, though it is also frequently found on eucalyptus, yew, sweet chestnut, and willow, as well as conifers in some species. Laetiporus species are parasitic and produce brown rot in the host on which they grow.

It sometimes comes back year after year when the weather suits its sporulation preferences. From late spring to early autumn, the sulphur shelf thrives, making it a boon to mushroom hunters and a bane to those concerned about the health of their trees. This fungus causes a brown cubical rot and embrittlement which in later stages ends in the collapse of the host tree, as it can no longer flex and bend in the wind.[citation needed]

L. cincinnatus in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York in October 2012

Chicken of the woods is found growing on or at the base of dead or dying hardwood trees; most commonly on oak but also cherry or beech. It can also be found on dead conifer stumps. Chicken of the woods has been known to fruit on living trees as well. It typically grows from spring to early fall.


The mushroom can be prepared in most ways that one can prepare chicken meat. It can also be used as a substitute for chicken in a vegetarian diet. Additionally, it can be frozen for long periods of time and retain its edibility. In certain parts of Germany and North America, it is considered a delicacy.

L. sulphureus prepared dish

In some cases eating the mushroom "causes mild reactions ... for example, "swollen lips" or in rare cases "nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation" to those who are sensitive.[6] This is believed to be due to a number of factors that include allergies to the mushroom's protein or toxins which are only somewhat stable at high temperatures. As such, many field guides[which?] request that those who eat Laetiporus exercise caution by only eating fresh, young brackets and begin with small quantities to see how well it sits in their stomach.

L. sulphureus has a potent ability to inhibit staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus), as well as moderate ability to inhibit the growth of Bacillus subtilis.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lindner, D.L.; Banik, M.T. (2008). "Molecular phylogeny of Laetiporus and other brown rot polypore genera in North America". Mycologia. 100 (3): 417–430. doi:10.3852/07-124R2. PMID 18751549. S2CID 25173644.
  2. ^ Banik, Mark T.; Lindner, Daniel L.; Ota, Yuko; Hattori, Tsutomu (2010). "Relationships among North American and Japanese Laetiporus isolates inferred from molecular phylogenetics and single-spore incompatibility reactions". Mycologia. 102 (4): 911–917. doi:10.3852/09-044. PMID 20648757. S2CID 9711234.
  3. ^ a b Song, Jie; Chen, yuanyuan; Cui, Baokai (2014). "Morphological and molecular evidence for two new species of Laetiporus (Basidiomycota, Polyporales) from southwestern China". Mycologia. 106 (5): 1039–1050. doi:10.3852/13-402. PMID 24987130. S2CID 22823127.
  4. ^ Pires, Ricardo Matheus; Motato-Vásquez, Viviana; de Mello Gugliotta, Adriana (2016). "A new species of Laetiporus (Basidiomycota) and occurrence of L. gilbertsonii Burds. in Brazil". Nova Hedwigia. 102 (3–4): 477–490. doi:10.1127/nova_hedwigia/2016/0320.
  5. ^ Smith, Alexander H.; Smith Weber, Nancy (1980). The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide. University of Michigan Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-472-85610-7.
  6. ^ Michael W. Beug. "Poisonous and hallucinogenic mushrooms". Retrieved Feb 21, 2013.
  7. ^ Suay I, Arenal F, Asensio FJ, Basilio A, Cabello MA, Díez MT, García JB, del Val AG, Gorrochategui J, Hernández P, Peláez F, Vicente MF (Aug 2000). "Screening of basidiomycetes for antimicrobial activities". Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. 78 (2): 129–139. doi:10.1023/A:1026552024021. PMID 11204765. S2CID 23654559.

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