Sparassis (also known as cauliflower mushrooms) is a genus of parasitic mushrooms characterised by their unique look. Its look can be described as similar to a sea sponge, a brain, or a head of cauliflower, from which it has been given its popular name.

They are increasingly cultivated and being sold in the USA and Australia, where they are locally known as white fungus.


The best-known and most widely collected species of Sparassis are S. crispa (found in Europe and eastern North America) and S. radicata (found in western North America). These species have a very similar appearance and some authorities treat them as conspecific. Their color can range from light brown-yellow to yellow-grey or a creamy white cauliflower colour. They are normally 10 to 25 cm tall, but can grow to be quite large, with reported cases of fruiting bodies more than half a meter tall and 14 kg in weight. Because of their unique look and size, they are unlikely to be mistaken it for any poisonous/inedible mushrooms. They parasitize the roots of various species of pine and spruce, and hence are always found growing close to a pine, oak or spruce tree.


Sparassis crispa can be very tasty, but should be throughly cleaned before use as the folds can contain dirt and other material, as it grows and envelops objects around it such as pine needles. Antonio Carluccio reports that European Sparassis crispa should be picked when creamy white, and once yellow are too indigestible to eat. It is good for drying and reconstuting as it retains its cartilaginous texture and hence is good for soups.


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