Laetiporus sulphureus (Bull.) Murrill
Sulphur shelf, chicken of the woods, chicken mushroom, chicken fungus
Laetiporus sulphureus is native to North America and Europe. Laetiporus means ”bright spores,” and sulphureus means sulphur-like, a reference to the bright yellow or yellow-orange color. (Don’t confuse the common names “chicken of the woods” for this species with “hen of the woods” for the completely unrelated and different-appearing Grifola frondosa).
Identification: Sulphur shelf is so brightly colored that it is hard to miss, and hard to confuse with other species. It is a bracket fungus, meaning that it grows from the sides of trees. It inhabits oaks and other hardwoods, on the sides of trees, causing a brown heart rot in the wood. It is composed of many horizontal layers called shelves. Each shelf is 1¾-20" (5-50 cm) across and up to 1½" (4 cm) thick, uneven, yellow to orange; clusters sometimes weigh up to 50 pounds.
Laetiporus cincinnatus also appears in eastern North America, but it is found near the ground, inhabiting roots and butts, sometimes appearing to grow from the ground near the base of trees. See MushroomExpert.com.
Edibility: Delicious. Tastes like chicken. Eat it when it is young, and cook it (for example, sauté it in butter and shallots). If you find it in the eastern United States, it is nearly impossible to mis-identify. However, the similar-appearing west coast species Laetiporus gilbertsonii, is not tolerated well by some, and Laetiporus conifericola is not edible. Until recently, these three species were thought to be one and the same. So the rule is that you should think twice if you find “sulphur shelf” on the west coast, but the east coast variety is okay.
Laetiporus sulphureus on Michael Kuo's MushroomExpert.com
Laetiporus sulphureus on AmericanMushrooms.com
Laetiporus sulphureus on Mushroom-Collecting.com, a New England and Eastern Canada Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms site
Laetiporus sulphureus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 21 Aug 2020.