I think this might be one of the most common edible wild mushrooms. You can purchase the cultivated cousin the King Oyster at many grocery stores these days. This fungus is a saprotroph which means it grows (and breaks down) dead wood, especially hardwoods. I typically find this on old stumps, or logs that have fallen, and typically in the fall and winter, depending on the weather. It’s a great versatile mushroom for cooking in many different cuisines. (Oh, hey, remember, don’t use this page for identification for eating!)
According to Wikipedia, “the oyster mushroom is one of the few known carnivorous mushrooms. Its mycelia can kill and digest nematodes, which is believed to be a way in which the mushroom obtains nitrogen“. …and I think that’s pretty cool. I hadn’t heard of a carnivorous mushroom before!
Some species of Oyster mushroom have also been used to break down diesel oil in polluted soil – and was able to convert 95% of the oil into non-toxic compounds.
Alternate Names: Oyster Fungus, Hiratake Size: Cap 2–30 cm. Family: Pleurotaceae Habitat: Growing on hardwood logs, stumps, or dead/dying trees. Identification: Oyster or fan-shaped smooth cap, little to no stem. Gills run all the way down the stem. Flesh is white. Frequently grows in a shelf-like formation in clusters. Slight odor similar to anise. Fruits summer-winter (in Virginia)