Laetiporus sulphureus is a species of bracket fungus (fungi that grow on trees) found in Europe and North America. Its common names are crab-of-the-woods, sulphur polypore, sulphur shelf, and chicken-of-the-woods. Its fruit bodies grow as striking golden-yellow shelf-like structures on tree trunks and branches. Old fruitbodies fade to pale beige or pale grey. The undersurface of the fruit body is made up of tubelike pores rather than gills.

Laetiporus sulphureus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Polyporales
Family: Fomitopsidaceae
Genus: Laetiporus
L. sulphureus
Binomial name
Laetiporus sulphureus
(Bull.) Murrill (1920)
Species synonymy
  • Agarico-carnis flammula Paulet, (1793)
  • Agarico-pulpa styptica Paulet, (1793)
  • Agaricus speciosus Battarra, (1755)
  • Boletus citrinus Lumn., (1791)
  • Boletus coriaceus Huds., (1778)
  • Boletus imbricatus Bull., (1788)
  • Boletus lingua-cervina Schrank, (1789)
  • Boletus ramosus Bull., (1791)
  • Boletus sulphureus Mérat, (1821)
  • Boletus sulphureus Bull., (1789)
  • Boletus tenax Bolton, (1788)
  • Boletus tenax Lightf., (1778)
  • Ceriomyces aurantiacus (Pat.) Sacc., (1888)
  • Ceriomyces neumanii Bres., (1920)
  • Cladomeris casearius (Fr.) Quél., (1886)
  • Cladomeris imbricatus (Bull.) Quél., (1886)
  • Cladoporus sulphureus (Bull.) Teixeira, (1986)
  • Daedalea imbricata (Bull.) Purton, (1821)
  • Grifola sulphurea (Bull.) Pilát, (1934)
  • Laetiporus speciosus Battarra ex Murrill, (1904)
  • Laetiporus sulphureus f. aurantiacus (Pat.) Bondartsev, (1953)
  • Laetiporus sulphureus f. ramosus (Quél.) Bondartsev, (1953)
  • Leptoporus casearius (Fr.) Quél., (1888)
  • Leptoporus imbricatus (Bull.) Quél., (1888)
  • Leptoporus ramosus (Bull.) Quél., (1888)
  • Leptoporus sulphureus (Bull.) Quél.,(1888)
  • Merisma imbricatum (Bull.) Gillet, (1878)
  • Merisma sulphureus (Bull.) Gillet, (1878)
  • Polypilus casearius (Fr.) P. Karst., (1882)
  • Polypilus imbricatus (Bull.) P. Karst., (1882)
  • Polypilus sulphureus (Bull.) P. Karst., (1881)
  • Polyporellus rubricus (Berk.) P. Karst., (1880)
  • Polyporus candicinus (Scop.) J. Schröt.
  • Polyporus casearius Fr., Epicr. (1838)
  • Polyporus cincinnatus Morgan, (1885)
  • Polyporus imbricatus (Bull.) Fr., (1821)
  • Polyporus ramosus (Bull.) Gray, (1821)
  • Polyporus rostafinskii Blonski, (1888)
  • Polyporus rubricus Berk., (1851)
  • Polyporus sulphureus (Bull.) Fr., (1821)
  • Polyporus todari Inzenga, (1866)
  • Ptychogaster aurantiacus Pat., (1885)
  • Ptychogaster aureus Lloyd, (1921)
  • Sistotrema sulphureum (Bull.) Rebent., (1804)
  • Stereum speciosum Fr., (1871)
  • Sulphurina sulphurea (Quél.) Pilát, (1942)
  • Tyromyces sulphureus (Bull.) Donk, (1933)
Laetiporus sulphureus
View the Mycomorphbox template that generates the following list
Pores on hymenium
Cap is flat
Hymenium attachment is irregular or not applicable
Lacks a stipe
Spore print is white
Ecology is saprotrophic or parasitic
Edibility is choice

Laetiporus sulphureus is a saprophyte and occasionally a weak parasite, causing brown cubical rot in the heartwood of trees on which it grows. Unlike many bracket fungi, it is edible when young, although adverse reactions have been reported.

Taxonomy and phylogenetics


Laetiporus sulphureus was first described as Boletus sulphureus by French mycologist Pierre Bulliard in 1789. It has had many synonyms and was finally given its current name in 1920 by American mycologist William Murrill. Laetiporus means "with bright pores" and sulphureus means "the colour of sulphur".[1]

Investigations in North America have shown that there are several similar species within what has been considered L. sulphureus and that the true L. sulphureus may be restricted to regions east of the Rocky Mountains.[2] Phylogenetic analyses of ITS and nuclear large subunit and mitochondrial small subunit rDNA sequences from North American collections have delineated five distinct clades within the core Laetiporus clade. Sulphureus clade I contains white-pored L. sulphureus isolates, while Sulphureus clade II contains yellow-pored L. sulphureus isolates.[3][4]


Underside, on Ginkgo biloba

The fruiting body emerges directly from the trunk of a tree and is initially knob-shaped, but soon expands to fan-shaped shelves, typically growing in overlapping tiers. It is sulphur-yellow to bright orange in color and has a suedelike texture. Old fruitbodies fade to tan or whitish. Each shelf may be anywhere from 5 to 60 centimetres (2 to 23+12 inches) across and up to 4 cm (1+12 in) thick.[2] The fertile surface is sulphur-yellow with small pores or tubes and produces a white spore print.[5] When fresh, the flesh is succulent with a strong fungal aroma and exudes a yellowish, transparent juice, but soon becomes dry and brittle.

Distribution and habitat

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) on the Trinity Trail, Palos Heights, Illinois, on September 10, 2019.

Laetiporus sulphureus is widely distributed across Europe and North America, although its range may be restricted to areas east of the Rockies. It grows on dead or mature hardwoods and has been reported from a very wide variety of host trees, such as Quercus, Prunus, Pyrus, Populus, Salix, Robinia, and Fagus, occasionally also from conifers,[6] from August to October or later, sometimes as early as June. In the Mediterranean region, this species is usually found on Ceratonia and Eucalyptus.[7] It can usually be found growing in clusters.[8]



The fungus causes brown cubical rot of heartwood in the roots, tree base and stem. After infection, the wood is at first discolored yellowish to red but subsequently becomes reddish-brown and brittle. At the final stages of decay, the wood can be rubbed like powder between the fingers.[9]

Guinness world record


A specimen weighing 45 kilograms (100 lb) was found in the New Forest, Hampshire, United Kingdom, on 15 October 1990.[10]


Laetiporus sulphureus prepared dish, with onions

Due to its taste, Laetiporus sulphureus has been called the chicken polypore and chicken-of-the-woods[11] (not to be confused with Grifola frondosa, the so-called hen-of-the-woods).

Many people think that the mushroom tastes like crab or lobster leading to the nickname lobster-of-the-woods. The authors of Mushrooms in Color said that the mushroom tastes good sauteed in butter or prepared in a cream sauce served on toast or rice.[12] It is highly regarded in Germany and North America.[13]

Young specimens are edible if they exude large amounts of a clear to pale yellow watery liquid.[8] Only the young outer edges of larger specimens should be collected, as older portions tend to be tough, unpalatable, and bug-infested.[14] The mushroom should not be eaten raw.[1] Certain species of deer consume this type of mushroom.[15]

Adverse effects


Some people have experienced gastrointestinal upset after eating this mushroom,[12] and it should not be consumed raw.

Severe adverse reactions can occur, including vomiting and fever, in about 10% of the population, but this is now thought to be the result of confusion with morphologically similar species such as Laetiporus huroniensis, which grows on hemlock trees, and L. gilbertsonii, which grows on Eucalyptus.[16]



The fungus produces the Laetiporus sulphureus lectin (LSL), which exhibits haemolytic and haemagglutination activities. Haemolytic lectins are sugar-binding proteins that lyse and agglutinate cells. These biochemical activities are promoted when bound to carbohydrates.[17]



Compared with species such as Agaricus bisporus (Swiss Brown mushroom) and the oyster mushroom, commercial cultivation of Laetiporus occurs at a much smaller and less mechanized scale.

See also



  1. ^ a b Smith, Alexander H.; Smith Weber, Nancy (1980). The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide. University of Michigan Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-472-85610-7.
  2. ^ a b Kuo, Michael (March 2005). "Laetiporus sulphureus: The Chicken of the Woods". Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  3. ^ Lindner DL, Banik MT (2008). "Molecular phylogeny of Laetiporus and other brown rot polypore genera in North America". Mycologia. 100 (3): 417–30. doi:10.3852/07-124R2. PMID 18751549. S2CID 25173644.
  4. ^ Burdsall, Jr., Harold H.; Banik, Mark T. (2001). "The genus Laetiporus in North America". Harvard Papers in Botany 6 (1): 43–55.
  5. ^ "Laetiporus sulphureus". New Jersey Mycological Association. Archived from the original on 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
  6. ^ Breitenbach J., Kränzlin F. (1986). Fungi of Switzerland, Volume 2: Non-gilled fungi. Verlag Mykologia, Luzern, Switzerland ISBN 3-85604-210-5.
  7. ^ Kyriakou, T.; Loizides, M.; Tziakouris, A. (2009). "Rarities and oddities from Cyprus". Field Mycology. 10 (3): 94–98. doi:10.1016/S1468-1641(10)60600-7.
  8. ^ a b Spahr, David L. (2009). Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada. North Atlantic Books. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-55643-795-3.
  9. ^ Schwarze FWMR; Engels J; Mattheck C. (2000). Fungal strategies of wood decay in trees. Springer. p. 73. ISBN 978-3-540-67205-0.
  10. ^ Glenday, Craig (2009). Guinness World Records 2009. Random House. ISBN 978-0-553-59256-6.[page needed]
  11. ^ Phillips, Roger (2010). Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books. p. 303. ISBN 978-1-55407-651-2.
  12. ^ a b K. Miller, Jr., Orson; Miller, H.; Miller, Hope (1980). Mushrooms in Color. South China Printing Co. ISBN 978-0-525-93136-2.[page needed]
  13. ^ Phillips, Roger (2010). "Laetiporus sulphureus". Roger's Mushrooms. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  14. ^ Lyle, Katie Letcher (2010) [2004]. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify, and Cook Them (2nd ed.). Guilford, CN: FalconGuides. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-59921-887-8. OCLC 560560606.
  15. ^ Rost, Amy (2007). Survival Wisdom & Know How: Everything You Need to Know to Thrive in the Wilderness. Black Dog Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-57912-753-4.
  16. ^ Volk, Thomas J. (July 2001). "Laetiporus cincinnatus, the white-pored chicken of the woods, Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for July 2001". Tom Volk's Fungi. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  17. ^ Mancheño JM, Tateno H, Goldstein IJ, Martínez-Ripoll M, Hermoso JA (April 2005). "Structural analysis of the Laetiporus sulphureus hemolytic pore-forming lectin in complex with sugars". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 280 (17): 17251–9. doi:10.1074/jbc.M413933200. PMID 15687495.