“My husband found this wild mushroom out in the woods. What kind is it?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff looked at the approximately 12” by 15” fungus in a bowl. Large, ruffled, salmon, white, and orange it almost seemed to be something that belonged at the bottom of the sea.
The first places we looked were A Field Guide to Mushrooms, North America by Kent H. McKnight, The Mushroom Book and Mushrooms by Thomas Laessøe. Each of these books has a section that uses fruit body shapes and cap features to help identify mushrooms. Upon initial examination the patron and the staff felt that her specimen belonged to either the family Corticiaceae or Polyporaceae. The photographs in the books were not exactly like her sample, so we continued the search online.
We did an image search for each of these families of mushrooms. We found photographs from www.wildmanstevebrill.com for two Polypores which might be likely candidates, the Berkeley’s and the chicken. Continuing on, the chicken or Chicken-of-the-Woods (as per The Mushroom Book, p.69) looks almost exactly like the one sitting on the library counter. According to what was written this mushroom, when young, is safe to eat and supposed to taste like chicken. As our staff members are not mushroom experts, we advised our patron to find someone more familiar with them to determine if our identification was correct and it was safe to eat.