Maitake has several common names which includes Hen of the Woods, Ram’s Head and Sheep’s Head. Hen of the Woods is perhaps the most frequently used common name in Canada and the U.S. Many of these specimens will often weigh as much as 9 kilos (20lbs) and sometimes they can grow to about 23 kilos (50lbs). Furthermore, due to its dull colour, from a distance it may be difficult to spot with autumn leaves on the ground. They hold their shape well when cooked, so they’re great for soups and stir-fries.
The fruit body is composed of clusters of flattened caps that to some, are reminiscent of a sitting hen. The fruit body can be 10 to 100 cm (4 to 36”) across or more. From the bottom, the stem and branch structure has an appearance somewhat to the underside of a cauliflower. Each individual cap can be anywhere from 2 to 8 cm across (3/4 to 3”) with grayish to brownish tones often with a whitish zone in the middle of the cap. Caps are about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Sometimes thinner. The pore surface is grayish in younger specimens becoming more white with age and developing some yellow or brown tones as it passes it’s peak.
Although, many specimens can grow quite high (about 30cm or 1′). It does have a single central white stem with a complex branched structure like broccoli.
This tasty fungi is abundant in parts of Eastern Canada and the U.S. where there are many large oak trees. Furthermore they may grow all at once or sometimes come out over a period of two or three weeks. It grows in northern temperate forests. It is not unheard of to see it growing in the northwestern or southeastern states.
White spore print.
Hen of the Woods is an autumn mushroom and can grow well into November depending on location and conditions.