October 6th, 2010


50 More Urban Species #40: Mock Oyster

Mock oyster Phyllotopsis nidulans

Here's yet another beautiful urban species with a belittling common name (see also lesser celandine, false Solomon's seal, etc.). We have oyster mushrooms to blame; Oysters comprise all bracket-like species grayish to white, with gills, that grow from wood, and are edible. This gorgeous orange fuzzy mushroom is not edible, so it is relegated to mock-ness. The scientific name is no solace, as DNA studies have shown this fungus to be related to others that produce quite different mushrooms; the name may change or be otherwise meaningless.

Sources tend to agree, though Michael Kuo and I beg to differ, that this mushroom smells bad. Perhaps we encountered aberrant individual mushrooms, but crouching in close for a macro shot didn't reveal a disagreeable odor. Apparently the taste of this mushroom is also unpleasant, discouraging those hunters looking to eat an oyster whether it's orange or white. Phyllotopsis nidulans is widespread in North America, with reports from Alaska to Costa Rica. Like "true" oysters, the fungus is an agent of wood decay.