En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Sunday - October 04, 2009

From: Battle Creek, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Orange/yellow fungus on a dead oak
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a large dead oak tree which has an orange/yellow fungus growing at the base and also high on a spot where a branch had broken off. I've read a couple of things from the internet about this fungus but haven't found out about it being harmful to people or animals. And what about burning this wood once the tree is down? Can the fungus be removed and the wood used? If not,and if this is harmful,how do we dispose of it? If the wood is left lying around will it spread to other trees?

ANSWER:

Your description of the fungus on your oak tree sounds like one of the  sulphur fungi, Laetiporus sp.  These are also called 'Chicken of the Woods.'  The ones that would occur in Michigan on hardwoods are Laetiporus sulphureus or Laetiporus cincinnatusLaetiporus gilbertsonii grows on hardwoods along the West Coast.  There are also ones that grow on conifers—Laetiporus huroniensis in the Great Lakes Area and Laetiporus conifericola on the West Coast.  They are apparently edible and delicious when cooked and eaten when they are young and tender.  They are reputed to taste like chicken.  However, we would NOT recommend eating any mushroom unless it was identified and declared by a mushroom expert as completely safe to eat. 

By the time you see the yellow/orange mushroom (the fruiting body that produces spores) growing on the outside, the health of the tree has been pretty severely compromised by the mycelium of the fungus growing inside the tree.  This particular mushroom causes the heartwood to rot.  Probably the wood of this dead tree is not useful for much except as firewood.  Burning the wood should be a safe way to dispose of it.  The heat of the fire should destroy any spores and the fungus growing in the wood.  It has probably already shed its spores and they will create new growths of the fungus when they encounter the proper conditions. The way to protect other trees from this fungus is to avoid injury to the tree that would allow the fungus to enter.  Aging trees with broken limbs and large open wounds are very susceptible to fungus infection.

Now, that being said, since we can't see it we don't know for sure if this is the mushroom that is growing on your oak tree. If this doesn't look like your fungus, you can send us photos and we will try to identify it.  Please visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page to read instructions for submitting photos. 

 

More Edible Plants Questions

Are yellow bells (Tecoma stans) edible?
January 25, 2009 - Can you tell me if any part of the yellow bell can be eaten and if so what part. Also is it useful in making natural paints?
view the full question and answer

Weed prevention in vegetable gardens
September 26, 2007 - Mr.Smarty Plants - I know this isn't your area, but we have a vegetable garden that has been plagued by summertime weeds. Do you have a recommendation for a control plan we could implement during t...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on wild edible plants
July 28, 2005 - Do you have classes or information on identifying wild edible plants that could be found in Texas?
view the full question and answer

Problems with chile pequin from Pflugerville TX
July 19, 2012 - Hello there! I have a question about my chile pequin (Capsicum annuum L.) plant. I purchased it last year from the Wildflower Center Fall Plant Sale. It stayed in a pot until three months ago when I p...
view the full question and answer

Arctostaphylos Hanging Basket for Texas
April 24, 2015 - I would like to plant an Arctostaphylos uva-ursi in a hanging basket with a coco liner. Will this work, or will the roots grow too long? it's the 'Massachusetts' cultivar.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center