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Sparassis crispa (cauliflower fungus)

Cauliflower fungus grows parasitically on the roots of conifers, and can be recognised by its distinctive, whitish to pale buff, much-lobed fruitbodies, which have been considered to resemble a cauliflower.
Cauliflower fungus

Sparassis crispa (Photo: Paul Cannon)

Species information

Common name: 

cauliflower fungus, wood cauliflower

Conservation status: 

Widespread and fairly common in Britain, and not considered of conservation concern there. Frequent in much of Europe but rarer in some areas, and rated as Vulnerable (VU) in the Red Book of Belarus.

Habitat: 

Parasitic on roots of conifers, especially pines, fruiting at the base of the trunk, or sometimes on old stumps, and causing a cubical brown rot.

Key Uses: 

Food, medicinal, insect breeding.

Known hazards: 

A good edible species, though fruitbodies should be collected in good, fresh condition, thoroughly washed to remove dirt and grit from amongst the lobes, and well-cooked before eating.

Taxonomy

Kingdom: 
Fungi
Phylum: 
Basidiomycota
Subphylum: 
Agaricomycotina
Order: 
Polyporales
Family: 
Sparassidaceae
Genus: Sparassis

About this species

Sparassis crispa is the most common, and best known, species of the genus and is found throughout much of Europe and eastern North America. Its fruitbodies have a rooting base, arising from the roots of the host tree, though they may occasionally occur on the trunk itself or even on dead stumps. They are edible but should be thoroughly washed first to remove grit and dirt harboured amongst the lobes, and should be well-cooked. Cauliflower fungus is widely collected and is also cultivated (especially in Japan) for its culinary value.

Like most fungi, fruitbodies of Sparassis crispa can vary in size. Most are around 15 – 20 cm across, and when fresh may weigh over 5 kg. However, heavier specimens up to 30 cm or so in diameter can sometimes be found and occasionally even larger specimens have been recorded. One, found in southeast France in 2000, was reported in the Los Angeles Times to weigh a remarkable 63.4 pounds (28.8 kg), more than double the previous record! It is reported that the finders had to use a jacket to move it to their car, and that the specimen was to be frozen for exhibit at mushroom fairs.

Genus: 
Sparassis

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