Holy moly! Emily gets credit for spotting this first…but honestly, who could have missed it?! This is a mushroom from the polypore family, under a jumbo oak tree in our home town, in 2021. It’s a Berkeley’s Polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi). That species in general is usually very large; it’s well known for that. But even after more than a decade of mushroom hunting, the occasional extra-huge ones can still surprise us! The specimen here is among the top ten largest mushrooms we’ve ever found. Several others to make that list were also Berkeley’s Polypores. They don’t call it Big Berk for nothin’.
Some species, such as Berkeley’s, become too stiff as they get larger; even though it’s an edible species, the big ones are not useful. But several other polypore species frequently attain “humongous fungus” stature…and some of those species, even at that size, remain tender enough to eat! You may be aware that the polypore family is the category that we recommend for beginners to study first. You can’t simply eat any polypore you see…but yes, there are a number of absolutely delicious polypore species that are easy to learn and recognize, such as Beefsteak Polypore, Hen of the Woods, Chicken of the Woods, and Black-staining Polypore. Because of its variable beige coloration, Berkeley’s Polypore is perhaps slightly more difficult to recognize than the others. We can teach you how to identify all of these and many, many more.