“Tracing the Naturalization of Golden Oysters in the U.S.”

A BIT OF BACKGROUND

On the 2012 Galena, Illinois morel foray, they first appeared, the golden oyster mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus). I knew what they were but thought to myself “they shouldn’t be here because they are only commercially grown”. Pics below:

Since then, I have seen a steady growth in quantities of these delicious mushrooms at the same location. Recently, we harvested over 100 pounds there during the foray! They are so colorful, and yet so delicious! Recent foray pics below:

About 20 years ago, it was near impossible to find them on the American market.  It’s native to subtropical hardwood forests of eastern Russia, northern China, and Japan, and has long been a popular culinary mushroom for cultivation across Asia.  Its sunny yellow caps make this species a show-stopper at farmers markets, and its popularity State-side has steadily risen over the years among specialty mushroom growers.

Today, it’s reasonably common to find golden oysters at American farmers markets during the summer, as it requires temps consistently above 60º F to fruit.  In Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, Stamets writes: “With the onset of commercial cultivation of these mushrooms adjacent to woodlands in North America, it will be interesting to see if these exotic varieties escape.”  I’d guess Stamets was spot on, but this is among the details regarding the mushrooms’ spread that my research seeks to confirm.  The first sightings of wild golden oysters in the US seemed to have occurred just about 6 or 7 years ago, following the rise in American cultivation of the species.  I have collected reports of sightings in Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

ARE GOLDEN OYSTERS INVASIVE?

The term “invasive” can be defined in many ways.  Ecologist Dr. Elena Litchman defines invasive microorganisms as those which proliferate in a new range and impact local communities or ecosystems.  This description leaves little doubt that golden oysters indeed fall under the category of invasive.  We would be rather negligent to assume that the rapid spread of any non-native species would be inconsequential to native ecosystems.  The golden oysters’ swift spread suggests that the native decomposers are being outcompeted and displaced.  Climate change and habitat loss already pose major threats to fungal biodiversity, so it’s critical that we understand the role non-native fungi play in deepening those threats.  Fungi provide vital ecosystem services as a part of diverse microbial communities, and ecological studies have shown that losses to biodiversity, or reductions in species richness, have negative effects on ecosystem function.

RESEARCH

Although outdoor cultivation is common practice, this is the first ever case of escape with rapid and significant spread of a cultivated mushroom.  I’m using genomic data (the entire DNA sequence of every specimen, rather than targeting specific gene regions) to analyze the ancestral lineages of our samples, allowing us to get a better understanding of the mechanisms behind their spread.  This sort of information will help us understand how humans have influenced the spread of golden oysters, and may provide a starting block for the development of mitigation procedures.

They have also appeared during my fall forays in Galena and also continue to grow in frequency. Last yr’s fall pic below:

They are super easy to grow and I always bring home a big batch of the butt-ends of them from Galena and have had very good luck and so much fun growing them and watching them mature. My most recent fruiting pic below:

They dry and freeze extremely well. Way better than regular wild oysters. I use them in so many dishes, I could write a cookbook just using them! In any event, I welcome this species to the wilds of the US and and am always on the lookout for that bright golden yellow color in both spring and fall and hope they will continue to spread in coverage! (I am guilty of planting a few on dead wood in any new areas so we will see what happens)! Below is a current map of golden oyster’s range:

Finally, below is a gallery of finds so far this spring… Enjoy!

Email Chris for questions, comments or additional submissions and info: chris@morelmushroomhunting.com

(Please Note- If you registered and paid for a 2020 foray postponed due to the pandemic, you are automatically included in on any 2023 foray and will be emailed the itineraries) 

-Call Chris now to reserve your spots for the below 2023 morel forays! (478)217-5200

Register for 2023 Spring Morel Forays:

Please understand, the pandemic destroyed me and I am slowly trying to get things rolling again and back to normal. If you feel led to support my efforts and help cover costs that I am incurring, that would be awesome and greatly appreciated. 

Zelle: chrismatherly@aol.com  Cash App: $chrismatherly123   Paypal: chrismatherly1@yahoo.com  Venmo: @chrismatherly1

2023 Georgia Morel Motherload Foray- March 31st-April 2nd, 2023 

2023 Nashville, TN Morel Foray and Music Fest- April 7th-9th, 2023 

2023 Oklahoma Morel Foray and Music Fest– April 14th-16th, 2023

2023 Missouri Morel Foray– April 21st-23rd, 2023 

2023 Central Illinois Morel Motherload Foray– April 24th-26th, 2023 

2023 Indiana Morel Foray– April 28th-30th, 2023 

2023 Ohio Morel Foray– May 5th-7th, 2023 

2023 Minnesota Morel Foray– May 12th-14th, 2023 

2023 Michigan Morel Foray– May 19th-21st, 2023 

2023 Oregon Morel Foray– May 26th-28th, 2023 

2023 Washington State Burnsite and Naturals Morel and Porcini Foray early June, 2023

Planned 2023 Summer and Fall Forays: (email me if interested- chrismathe@aol.com)

2023 Gatlinburg Tennessee Summer Foray July, 2023

2023 Telluride Colorado Porcini Foray August, 2023

2023 Upper Peninsula Michigan Chaga and Porcini Foray August, 2023

2023 Fall Vermont Foray September, 2023

2023 Fall Minnesota Foray September, 2023

2023 NW Illinois Fall Foray October, 2023

2023 Ohio Fall Foray October, 2023

2023 Fall Brown County Indiana Foray October, 2023

(NEW) 2023 Baton Rouge, Louisiana Fall Mushroom Foray October, 2023

2023 Fall Knoxville Tennessee Foray November, 2023

2023 Georgia Fall Foray November, 2023 

  • California Fall/Winter Trumpets-Chanterelles-Porcini-Candy Caps Foray December, 2023

  • Oregon Truffle Foray January, 2024

  • California Winter Foray January, 2024

  • Plan Now for some Exciting 2024 Forays:

    • Morels in Greece March 2024
    • Morels in Africa August 2024
    • Porcini/Truffles in Italy September 2024
    • Morels in Chile December 2024