This page will cover some of the basics for Pleurotus - the Oyster mushrooms. As with all of these pages, they are NOT intended to be used as a key or diagnostic tool, but a guide of basic identifying characteristics so that you can make informed decisions and easy-access to other, more detailed resources.

Edibility Basics

Pleurotus species- The Oyster Mushrooms

What They Have In Common

We have four primary species of Pleurotus in Alabama: P.  ostreatus , P. pulmonaris, P. dryinus, and P. levis. All four are edible and share the following characteristics: decurrent gills, growing on wood (maybe buried), convex or slightly depressed cap with an in-rolled margin when young, and dense, easily obtained white spore-prints. Oysters are a favorite for low-maintenance mushroom growing at home that is sometimes as easy as bringing home an infected log/branch and keeping it moist. 

Helpful Trick

Pleurotus species have a slightly hidden feature that helps distinguish them from some look-a-likes, they have a diaphanous margin (light is able to pass through). While several mushrooms have a diaphanous margin, Pleurotus are one of the few wood-growing mushrooms to display this so well. Don't depend on this feature, but it's something to keep in mind. 

P. ostreatus

Pleurotus ostreatus are considered the "true oyster" and are stimulated to fruit by drops in the temperature, so expect to see these in fall-winter. P. ostreatus tend to fruit in clusters, almost shelves as seen in the image above. Caps are often buff/tan and usually covered in the white spores of those fruitbodies directly above them.

More About P. ostreatus

Cap Shape

Pleurotus have several possible cap shapes that are heavily influenced by the environment but typically like to grow as above, with an off-center stipe and cap protruding away from the substrate. The off-center cap is slightly more typical of P. ostreatus than P. dryinus/levis, which can have more central stipes.  

P. dryinus/levis

Picture by Cyndee Helms

Frankly, these two species are difficult to separate both morphologically and microscopically, so we won't bother. Both may have a finely hairy-to-velvety cap surface and a stipe ornamented with fuzz. They are less likely to grow in shelves and fruit when warm-to-cool temperatures following good precipitation. Gills may be more distant than P. ostreatus, but are still close. I find that these species have a more defined boundary between their gills and the stipe, likely due to the ornamentation.

 Photo by Cyndee Helms 

More about P. dryinus/levis

P. pulmonaris

The "summer oyster" is a rather delicate species and prefers the warmer months to fruit.

More About P. pulmonarius

Look A Likes


These "Pleurotoid" mushrooms drop a brown spore-print and lack of stem. They can come in a variety of white-to-brown colors and are often delicate.

More About Crepidotus/Panellus


This genus grows on wood and will have a central stipe without decurrent gills. The gills will start white and turn a salmon color as the pink spores drop

More About Pluteus

Phyllotopsis nidulans

This is one of the most convincing look-a-likes, sometimes even called the "mock-oyster". Phyllotopsis nidulans has a densely hairy texture to the cap and is usually some orange color and the fruitbody often smells foul. 

Photo by Richard Davis

More About P. nudulans

Please remember to seek other sources for confirmation before consuming any wild mushroom

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