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Sparassis spathulata and Sparassis crispa:
The Eastern Cauliflower Mushrooms

[ Basidiomycetes > Polyporales > Sparassidaceae > Sparassis . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

These large, unmistakable "cauliflower mushrooms" can be found growing from the bases or roots of trees in eastern North America's hardwood forests (the western version is Sparassis radicata). Recent DNA studies (Wang and collaborators, 2004) support the idea that there are at least two species, or species groups, in eastern North America; see the description below if you are interested in identifying your cauliflower mushroom precisely.


Ecology: Pathogenic and saprobic; growing from the roots or bases of trees; found primarily under hardwoods--especially oaks--but occasionally reported under conifers; annual, but often recurring yearly in the same location; causing a brown rot or a butt rot; summer and fall; fairly widely distributed in eastern North America.

Fruiting Body: 10-40 cm broad; composed of tightly packed branches which arise either from a common base (S. spathulata) or from large basal branches that in turn arise from a large underground base (S. crispa); branches long and flattened (S. spathulata) or short and contorted (S. crispa); whitish to yellowish or tan; each branch with fairly conspicuous zones of color (S. spathulata), or evenly colored (S. crispa).

Spore Print: Whitish.

Microscopic Features: Spores 5-7 x 4-5 µ (S. crispa) or 6-8 x 5-6 µ (S. spathulata); smooth; broadly elliptical; inamyloid. Clamp connections present (S. crispa) or absent (S. spathulata).

REFERENCES: S. crispa: (Wulfen, 1781) Fries, 1821. S. spathulata: (Schweinitz, 1822) Fries, 1828. (Saccardo, 1888; Saccardo, 1888; Smith, 1949; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Burdsall & Miller, 1988a; Burdsall & Miller, 1988b; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Metzler & Metzler, 1992; Barron, 1999; Roody, 2003; Wang et al., 2004; Miller & Miller, 2006; Kuo, 2007; Binion et al, 2008.)

Sparassis herbstii and Sparassis caroliniense are synonyms for Sparassis spathulata, according to Burdsall & Miller (1988a). Eastern North American versions of "Sparassis radicata" should probably be labeled Sparassis crispa, since the western North American cauliflower mushroom is the "true" Sparassis radicata.

Further Online Information:

Sparassis crispa at Roger's Mushrooms


Sparassis crispa

Sparassis crispa

Sparassis crispa

Sparassis crispa

Sparassis crispa

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Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2009, January). Sparassis spathulata and Sparassis crispa: The eastern cauliflower mushrooms. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: