(June) 2010 Mushroom of the Month...
Polyporus umbellatus, the umbrella polypore
When I first encountered the somewhat rare umbrella polypore, I considered it a summer mushroom, i.e., one I wouldn’t look for until July. Lately, however, I have been picking this mushroom in June and last year even in late May. Is this an example of a mushroom changing growth pattern due to global warming? Perhaps.
Polyporus umbellatus is a compound cluster of small (3/4 inch to 1¼ inch) polypore caplets with a thin central stalk. The caplets branch from a single thick central stalk. The caplets are umbilicate, with a central depression. The overall cluster which is hemispherical to nearly a globe-shape in outline can reach 16 inches across. The caplets are dull white to yellowish brown to smoky brown. It is parasitical on the roots of hardwoods causing a white rot but is not particularly detrimental to the host so it can be found in the same location for many years. The mushroom grows from a sclerotium, a hard, blackish tuber-like underground structure. The pore surface is white colored becoming yellow with age. The pores are decurrent.
The umbrella polypore is an excellent edible
with a taste somewhat reminiscent of its “big brother” the hen
of the woods (Grifola frondosa) which it vaguely resembles.
Unfortunately the mushroom flies love this mushroom and
it is rare to find one that is bug free.
Fortunately it can be found in the same location for many
years, so that you can look with high expectations for it
following heavy spring or summer rains and with luck you can
find it bug-free.
I use this mushroom in dishes where I would use hen of the woods but I only use it in single mushroom dishes as it is fairly rare. The flavor is excellent and somewhat sweetish compared to hen of the woods. I don’t merge the flavor in mixed mushroom dishes except for a cream of mushroom soup in which I use hen of the woods for the broth and add umbrella polypores for texture after pureeing the broth.