An Introduction to the Peculiarly Named Chicken of the Woods

Lion's mane blue oyster mushrooms

They say that reality is often times even more shocking than what imagination can conjure up in its wide field of possibility. This is even more evident in nature than anywhere else, where reality is extended to such incredible points that it is hard to believe. Chicken of the woods is a rather interesting type of bracket fungi that is generally found in Europe and North America. It is also known by a plethora of other names such as ‘crab of the woods’, sulphur polypore, and sulphur shelf. All of these names seem to point to one interesting aspect of its appearance. The mustard color seems to dominate most people’s observation of this fungi. A bracket fungus is a fungus that grows on trees. What is even more interesting about it is the fact that it is clear to be eaten when it’s young. Although there are recorded incidents of people’s bodies reacting extremely negatively to the consumption of this fungi.

There are some subspecies of chicken of the woods that are saprotrophic and some that are parasitic. The parasitic subspecies feed on living trees by causing them to rot while the saprotrophic ones feed on already dead trees. So, depending on whether they are parasitic or saprotrophic, you will find them growing either on a dead tree or a living one.

They are easily recognizable due to their bright color and the overlapping structure of the mushroom itself. The more striking the color is, the younger the mushroom itself is. For most amateur mushroom enthusiasts, these mushrooms play the role of starter mushrooms as they are easily recognizable due to their immediately recognizable appearance.

If you are more interested in growing mushrooms, there is the option of buying a mushroom grow kit such as a lion's mane kit or a blue oyster kit.


lion's mane kit


For people who are interested in eating this mushroom, taste is going to play a big role. It is known for its meaty taste which is on the slightly sour side of things. It can even be said that it came out of the womb of mother nature with natural seasoning already added to it in the form of its natural lemony taste. Its savory taste also ensures that it can be used as an alternative to meat in many dishes. For people who are looking to decrease their consumption of meat, this is most certainly a godsend!

Chicken of the Woods Place of Growth

As previously mentioned, this species mostly grows in Europe and North America. However, North America is host to seven different chicken of the woods subspecies, each one more delicious than the next.  

Stem of Chicken of the Woods

There is no discernible stem in this particular mushroom. There are these brackets that are wing-shaped and resemble some flat flowers from a particular angle. They can be as wide and as long as 10 inches. Due to their overlapping nature, they can grow quite a bit in a rather constrained volume. This is boosted even more by the fact that they are thick mushrooms, which is partly to credit for their taste which resembles chicken meat the most. In fact, this is where the name itself comes from.


Chicken of the woods will grow anywhere where there is a tree. Be it a thickly forested area, a park or even the creepy-looking tree in your backyard. If there is a tree, there is potential for the growth of chicken of the woods. Most of these subspecies will fruit during the late summer and well into the fall. In terms of months, it grows from late July to November. Their growing pattern is generally tied to the host tree’s growth pattern as well. Once you have spotted a chicken of the woods growing on a tree, make sure to somehow mark the location as the mushroom continues to grow in the same place year after year. This is due to the fact that the mycelium resides inside of the tree year-round. It is a bit like taking the fruit of a tree knowing that it will bear the same fruit the next year as well.

Harvesting Chicken of the Woods

Specimens that leak out a watery liquid are generally considered to be ripe for the picking. Harvesting it is a fairly simple process. Take a very sharp knife and slowly cut underneath the mushroom, separating it from the tree. Make sure to not use any force to yank it off the tree. This might actually damage the mushroom itself. If the mushroom is bright and juicy, that means that you have made a good choice in harvesting this particular specimen.

Possibility of Allergic Reactions

It must be acknowledged that bracket mushrooms in general are not considered to be fit for eating. Chicken of the woods mushrooms, despite being a type of bracket mushroom are considered to be safe for eating for the vast majority of the population out there. However, there will be people who might be at risk of an allergic reaction. The reaction can be anything from intestinal issues, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. If you have a history of reacting sensitively to mushrooms, it is better that you do not consume chicken of the woods as those reactions might also be replicated here as well. The reaction might variate from tree to tree as well. So, if you are feeling brave and want to see if you will experience a reaction or not, be sure to pay attention to the type of tree it is growing on.

Chicken of the woods is one of the most interesting and famous types of mushrooms out there. It is not only instantly recognizable but also consumed by a lot of people from across the world. It is known for its taste that is instantly reminiscent of chicken meat, hence the name.