What You Should Know
Sparassis crispa is a parasitic fungus with a large, edible, ocher-yellowish fruiting body that resembles a bath sponge or a brain. It grows at the base of conifer trees and is found in Asia, North America, North Africa and Europe. The fungus can cause intense brown rot in trees it infects, but it can also live on dead stumps and infest new plants. S. crispa is used in traditional Chinese medicine due to its pharmacological activity. The genus Sparassis has at least 8 different clades that mostly differ in morphological features, but can also differ in cellular features such as the presence or absence of clamp connections.
This mushroom is delicious and can weigh up to 22 lbs (10 kg). It should be picked when still white, as it can cause indigestion if it turns yellow. However, it can be dried and preserved with all its nutrients intact. The Cauliflower mushroom has a sweet, mild flavor that goes well with red meats and is great for soups and stews. To cook it, sauté it in olive oil with a bit of butter or ghee added for flavor. It can also be baked or fried, and used as the basis for a delicious Cauliflower (Fungus!) Cheese. The Wood Cauliflower fungus re-constitutes well when dried and can be kept fresh in the fridge for a week or more. To clean the fungus, briefly immerse it in boiling water or cut it into slices and place it in water to remove debris. Once prepared, the Curly Hen is firm and tasty.
Cauliflower extract is used in skin care products for damaged, toneless, and aged skin. It has healthy nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties that can protect against various diseases, including cancer, heart problems, and brain diseases.
Other names: Cauliflower Fungus, German (Krause Glucke, Fette Henne, Bärenschädel), Netherlands (Grote sponszwam), France (Clavaire crépue), Czech Republic (Kotrč kadeřavý).
Sparassis crispa Mushroom Identification
The fruit bodies are 1.97 to 7.87 inches (5 to 20 cm) in height, 3.94 to 15.75 inches (10 to 40 cm) in diameter, and weigh 13 to 22 lbs (6-10 kg). They are bushy, branched, and outwardly similar to cauliflower, with colors ranging from cream, light yellow, and ocher-yellow to brownish with age. The fruit bodies consist of branches or blades.
The branches are thin, flattened, blade-shaped, twisted, and have a curly toothed edge.
The hymenophore is smooth or rough, waxy, and located on the surface of the branches.
The stem is 3.54 to 5.12 inches (9 to 13 cm) cm high and 0.79 to 1.97 inches (2 to 5 cm) in diameter. It is central and inconspicuous because it is deeply immersed in the substrate. The stem is tuberous, initially whitish or yellowish, and later becomes brownish or black.
The flesh is dense, white, and does not change color when cut. It has a pleasant smell.
The spores are 5-7.5 * 3-5 μm, elliptical in shape, with a smooth surface, and with drops of oil. They are colorless or yellowish.
The spore print is whitish, yellowish, or ocher.
This mushroom grows from August to the end of September in coniferous forests, on the roots or at the base of living and dead trunks, and on the stumps of coniferous trees such as pines, spruces, and firs, but rarely. This species typically found in Asia, North America, North Africa and Europe. It can cause red rot of wood.
Sparassis crispa Look-Alikes
It is commonly found at the bases of oak trees and also takes on a cauliflower-like shape. However, its fan-shaped segments have pores on the underside and it has a gray-brown coloration.
It is a less frequently occurring mushroom in Britain and Ireland. Its fruitbodies resemble those of Sparassis crispa, but its fronds are mostly straight and erect, similar to a spatula.
Sparassis crispa Health Benefits
Antidiabetic and antiallergic activities
This fungus is known for its production of health benefiting compounds such as β-glucan, anti-fungal compounds such as sparassol, methyl-2, 4-dihydroxy-6-methylbenzoate, and methyl-dihydroxymethoxy-methylbenzoate, ergosterol peroxides, and benzoate derivatives that can be used to treat human diseases such as diabetes, wound healing, as well as the immune system, cytokine induction, and cancer.
In addition, substances such as anti-fungal and phenolic compounds can be used as anti-oxidant or anti-fungal agents.
Sparassis crispa Taxonomy and Etymology
Sparassis crispa was first discovered by a botanist and priest named Franz Xaver Freiherr von Wulfen in the Austrian Alps. The name was later approved by a famous mycologist Elias Magnus Fries in 1921 and has been used ever since. The name Sparassis comes from a Greek word that means "to tear," which refers to the way the fronds of the mushroom look like they have been torn irregularly. The word crispa means "finely waved or curled" and does not refer to the mushroom's brittleness, but rather to the fact that the fronds are pliable and have a texture similar to cartilage.
Sparassis crispa Synonyms
Clavaria crispa Wulfen, 1781
Elvela ramosa Schaeff., 1774
Helvella ramosa Schaeff., 1774
Manina crispa Scop. (1772)
Masseeola crispa (Wulfen) Kuntze, 1891
Merisma crispum (Wulfen) Ehrenb., 1818
Sparassis crispa (Wulfen) Fr. (1821) var. crispa
Sparassis radicata Weir, 1917
Sparassis crispa Video
Photo 1 - Author: Jerzy Opioła (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
Photo 2 - Author: Jeremy (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 3 - Author: Grzegorz Grzejszczak (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 4 - Author: Cilla Moerman (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
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