The tree-decaying mushroom also known as ‘hiratake,’ abalone, or tree mushroom is well-known for its capability to bolster immune function and potentially fight and prevent cancer. Aside from being rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants.
The fungus has a shell-shaped, laterally attached cap that is 5-35 cm (2-10 in) wide. If there is a stem, it is normally eccentric, and the gills are decurrent along it. Fruiting bodies are usually formed of rich clumps arranged in tiers. Young caps are round with curved edges, their skin is smooth and hairless, variable in color from flesh-brown or deep blue-grey to more grey-brown or black. The gills are white to greyish. The stipe is 1-4 cm (less than 1/2 in to 1.5 in) long and up to 2 cm (3/4 in) thick, cylindrical, club-shaped at the bottom, with a white-tomentose skin.
The flesh is white, soft in youth, and later solid with a slightly musty smell. It grows on both living and dead trunks, as well as stumps of mainly deciduous trees, which it decays with white rot. Fruiting bodies appear from fall to spring, i.e., a time when other fungi do not grow.
The oyster mushroom is currently cultivated artificially on straw or on blocks of wood sunk into the ground. A similar type with fair ochre caps called branched oyster mushroom (Pleutorus cornucopioe) grows in the floodplain forests in Central Europe, e.g. the Czech Republic. In addition, in this region you can also come across edible blue oyster mushroom (Pleutorus columbinus) with a notably blue-gray cap which grows mainly on coniferous trees, but also poisonous jack-o’-lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius).
Another kind of oyster mushroom is Pleurotus pulmonarius, commonly known as the Indian Oyster, Italian Oyster, Phoenix Mushroom, or the Lung Oyster, which has a shell-shaped cap of white to grayish hue. Pleurotus pulmonarius is widespread in temperate and subtropical forests throughout the world. In the eastern United States, this species is generally found on hardwoods, while in the west it is commonly found on conifers. A number of species also grow in the tropics and subtropics, such as Pleurotus solignus, which grows mainly in northwest India.
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