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Sparassis radicata:
The Western Cauliflower Mushroom

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

by Michael Kuo

Sparassis radicata--like its eastern counterparts Sparassis crispa and Sparassi spathulata--is found at the bases of trees, growing from dead or dying roots. But while the eastern cauliflower mushrooms appear under hardwoods, the western species is usually found under conifers (especially pines). The physical appearance of Sparassis radicata is pretty much unmistakeable, and it is one of only a few mushrooms that can be successfully identified with comparison to photos. Sparassis radicata, as its Latin name suggests, usually has a radicating, underground portion.

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"Sparassis crispa" in the sense of several western authors (e.g. States, Arora, and Stamets) is a synonym. This confusion results from the fact that Sparassis radicata was originally described (Weir, 1917) as a western, conifer-loving, rooting morphological species--but was later found to be the same as European and Asian Sparassis crispa specimens in a mating study (Martin & Gilbertson, 1976). However, a recent DNA study (Wang et al., 2004) finds our continent's Sparassis radicata to differ genetically from European and Asian crispa-like specimens, breathing new life into the original morphologically defined, western species.


Ecology: Pathogenic and saprobic; growing from the roots or bases of trees; found primarily under conifers (especially pines and Douglas-fir); annual, but often recurring yearly in the same location; causing a brown rot or a butt rot; summer and fall, or over winter in warm climates; fairly widely distributed in western North America.

Fruiting Body: 10-60 cm broad; composed of tightly packed branches which arise from a common basal structure (which measures up to 30 cm long, tapering into the ground); branches fairly short and tightly packed, thin, whitish to yellowish or tan, evenly colored.

Spore Print: Whitish.

Microscopic Features: Spores 6-7 x 4-5 µ; smooth; broadly elliptical; inamyloid. Clamp connections present.

REFERENCES: J. R. Weir, 1917. (Weir, 1917; Saccardo, 1925; Smith, 1975; Martin & Gilbertson, 1976; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Arora, 1986; States, 1990; Wang et al., 2004; Stamets, 2005; Miller & Miller, 2006; Kuo, 2007.) Herb. Kuo 01170508.

This site contains no information about the edibility or toxicity of mushrooms.


Sparassis radicata

Sparassis radicata

Sparassis radicata

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Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2009, February). Sparassis radicata: The western cauliflower mushroom. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: