Hen of the woods is native to Europe, northeastern Japan and the northeastern United States.
Grifola is an Italian name for fungus; frondosa means "full of leaves." In Japan it is
named maitake ("dancing mushroom") and sought after as a food and for its medicinal properties.
(Don't confuse the common name "hen of the woods"
for this species with "chicken of the woods" for the completely unrelated and very different-looking Laetiporus sulphureus).
Identification: Hen of the woods is a polypore—a leathery mushroom that grows
in wrinkly clusters, attached directly to the base of hardwood trees, especially oaks.
Caps are gray brown, forming wavy, sinuous masses that are sometimes very large. (We found one
group of clusters that together weighed about 25 pounds.) Each mushroom cap is ¾-4″ (2-10 cm) across.
Edibility: A choice species. The branching stemlike structure is
tough, but young fresh outer caps make delicious soups. It can also be sautéed, marinated, baked, stir-fried, or
pickled. These mushrooms freeze well. Wash and wipe them well to remove any grit. They
don't agree with everybody, so it doesn't hurt to try a smaller amount first. See wildmushroomrecipes.org
for recipe ideas.
Medical: Hen of the woods shows considerable promise as an
immune system stimulant and a cancer inhibitor. Studies are underway to assess their value for these,
as well as a possible aid for diabetes, HIV/AIDs, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
11/8/2015 · James River Park System, Virginia · ≈ 1½ × 1′ (55 × 36 cm)
Roughly 75 people in North America are poisoned each year by mushrooms, often from eating a poisonous species that resembles an edible species. Though deaths are rare, there is no cure short of a liver transplant for severe poisoning. Don't eat any mushroom unless you are absolutely certain of its identity! Please don't trust the identifications on this site. We aren't mushroom experts and we haven't focused on safely identifying edible species.