IT LOOKS like a paler version of Oyster Fungus, which you find growing in clusters on stumps and fallen logs in the autumn but Branching Oyster Fungus, Pleurotus cornucopiae, appears earlier in the year, and can be seen growing on elm, oak and beech stumps and logs from spring to autumn. These were growing on a fallen Silver Birch in Coxley Woods between the two dams.
In his field guide Marcel Bon warns that although edible it’s ‘not of high quality’ and says that the white flesh has ‘a strong smell, sometimes rather unpleasant’. Michael Jordan describes the odour as ‘slight, of aniseed’. A related species, the Pale Oyster, is grown commericially, as is the Oyster.
Horn of Plenty
The species name of the Branching Oyster, cornucopiae, refers to the mythical horn of plenty. In specialist books on fungi this funnel shape is referred to as infundibuliform. In anatomy, a infundibulum is a funnel-shaped cavity or structure.
In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan, one man (and his dog) gets trapped in a ‘chrono synclastic infundibulum‘. I’d worked out the first part of this; chrono is time, the prefix syn means united and clastic in geology means broken pieces. So these clumped up fragments of time had formed a funnel-shaped structure.