Sulfur Shelf Mushroom

Sulfur Shelf Mushroom
Sulfur Shelf Mushroom

Can you see the face on the large mushroom above?  It took my family and I a long time to notice.  Oh, we saw all the bright orange stuff in different places on the stump of the old ash tree that was cut down earlier this year, but never walked over to get a good look at it.  On my way to work Thursday, October 2nd at the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum, I glanced at the one large mushroom and then quickly turned again to take another look.  I walked up closer and was so excited to see that face, I dropped my work bag and cooler, ran back into the house shouting you have to come out to see the face on the mushroom to my husband, Ben, and sister-in-law, Alvina, as I hurried by them to get my camera.

I took a couple photos and rushed to work, stopping at Mary’s desk to show her the photos on my camera.  We were so fascinated by the orange mushroom, especially since it had a face, but we couldn’t identify it.  Mary got on her computer and tried to compare one of my photos with what she found, but couldn’t come up with identification, or I should say none we were sure of.

A few days later, a man pulled into our driveway and was about to cut off the mushroom with a meat cleaver.  Alvina rushed out to ask what he was doing. Pointing to the mushroom with the face, he said I want that.  She asked him to wait a minute and came to ask me what to do.  I told her, I have the photos and just let him have the mushroom.  When she went back to give him the message, he was gone.

One evening about a week later, Father Gregory Mastey, Director Vocations Office, Seminarians of the Diocese of St. Cloud, was driving by our home on his way to Bowlus to hold a Mass.  He spotted the mushroom and turned his truck around to come ask if we knew the mushroom was edible.  I told him we hadn’t, but thought it must be since a man stopped before to take it.

I asked if he had seen it up close, he hadn’t, so we went to look at the mushroom.  He said it was a perfect mushroom.  I told him the story about Mary trying to identify it from those she found on-line.  He went to his truck and got out a book “Start Mushrooming, The Easiest Way to Start Collecting 6 Edible Mushrooms” by Stan Tekiela and Karen Shanberg.  He leafed through the book, pointed at the Sulfur Shelf Mushroom saying, this is your mushroom. He said some people think it tastes like chicken, but he didn’t.

I told him he could have the mushroom and he asked, are you sure? I said we wouldn’t eat it, even though he assured me it was perfectly safe to do so.  I offered a donation for the book (it had a price of $12.95 on the back cover), but he said I’m giving you the book for giving me the mushroom. Father Mastey told me he bought the book at Treasure City in Royalton, MN.

He then reached back into the truck to get a long knife. I do a lot of mushrooming, he said, walked to the mushroom, squatted down, started cutting off pieces.  With each piece he kept telling me how perfect this mushroom was and how good it would taste.  You just parboil it and fry in butter, he said. I assured him we still didn’t want the mushroom and he was welcomed to take it all so it wouldn’t go to waste.  Pointing to the smaller mushroom under the one he was cutting, he said, that is a young mushroom and is very tender, not that this one isn’t. He placed them inside a paper bag and put them into his truck, saying he had to leave or he would be late for Mass.  We said goodbye, he jumped into his truck, waved, and headed down the road.  I know Father was a very happy man getting the mushrooms, I enjoyed our delightful visit, the gift of the book and now I had a name for our mushroom.

I’ve since read the book on the sulfur shelf mushroom and found, “It grows on wood and never on the ground and it doesn’t matter if the tree is alive or dead, standing or downed, log or stump, the sulfur will grow on it.”  The book further explains, “The sulfur can occur as a single shelf, but most likely will occur in a large cluster of many overlapping shelves.  Use a long sharp knife to trim away this edible portion.  Leave the portion of the fungi under the bark or wood undisturbed so that it may continue to grow.  Any forester or tree surgeon would probably cringe at this request because the sulfur shelf causes a red-brown heart rot in its host tree.  This heart-rot will hollow out the inside of a living tree, cause the tree to become weak and die.”

I noticed the two sulfurs on top of the trunk were turning white.  In the book it says, “As the mushroom ages, the color fades to a dull orange and yellow.  Just before it dies the entire mushroom appears completely white, as though the color was washed out.”  It also warns, “Sulfur growing on eucalyptus have been known to cause illness.”  There is more interesting information on the sulfur in the book, as well as other mushrooms.

Now I’m happy as a lark with the identity of the mushroom in my photo, my book and another story for my genealogy.

~ Alice Smuda

4 Replies to “Sulfur Shelf Mushroom”

  1. What a fascinating picture and story about the most common of things — a mushroom. Isn’t it funny how the ordinary things in our lives help us to build connections with other people? Opening our eyes to the world around us and sharing our enthusiasm and appreciation for these simple things, enriches ourselves as it also enriches others. Thank you for sharing your story Alice. It was as satisfying as frying up a plate of woodland mushrooms for a family supper!

  2. This is really facinating—we have tree in our yard up No. with a huge mushroom on it. If it is still there when winter is over I will look at it more closely, and even send you a picture. jean

  3. Pingback: Skimming the Cream Blog Archive Sulfur Shelf Mushroom | Best Eye Cream

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