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Elm Oyster Mushroom: Cultivation, Benefits, and Recipes

The Elm Oyster mushroom is often confused with the more common oyster species in the Pleurotus genus. Though not as widespread as foragers and food enthusiasts still enjoy the true oyster mushrooms, elm oyster mushrooms.

Want to learn more about the Elm Oyster, from identification and cultivation to health benefits and culinary applications? Read on!

Hypsizygus ulmarius, The Elm Oytser Mushroom

Identification and Appearance

The Elm Oyster mushroom, Hypsizygus Ulmarius, is an edible fungus, often mistaken for true oyster mushrooms in the Pleurotus genus due to their similar appearance. However, they can be distinguished by certain characteristics, particularly in the cap, gill structure, and stem features.

Cap Characteristics

The cap of the Elm Oyster mushroom is cream-colored and ranges between 2-12 inches wide. Its shape is mostly convex, with smooth, uniform surfaces. The cap might sometimes have faint scales on the surface. It often grows alone or in clusters of three on elm trees.

Gill Structure

The gills of Elm Oyster mushrooms are either not decurrent or not deeply decurrent, which means they do not extend down the length of the stem. The gills of this mushroom are white in color, contrasting with the cream-colored cap.

Stem Features

The stem of the Elm Oyster mushroom is generally white. It tends to be relatively short compared to the size of the cap. The mushroom grows on elm trees, specifically on scars or wounds, and never grows from the ground.

Habitat and Distribution

Mushrooms on a rotten tree in the woods

Elm oyster mushrooms can be found in a variety of habitats across the temperate regions of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. These edible mushrooms primarily grow on deciduous trees, such as elm, beech, aspen, and box elder.

In the wild, Elm oyster mushrooms tend to grow on the trunks and large branches of these deciduous trees. They often appear high up on the tree, near scars or wounds in the bark. Elm oyster mushrooms can be found in both deciduous and mixed woodlands, where they typically grow singly or in small clustered groups.

Distribution and preference for specific tree species may vary regionally. For example, in North America, elm oyster mushrooms are more frequently found on box elder and elm trees, while in Europe, they are more commonly associated with elm trees and occasionally other broadleaf deciduous trees.

Temperate forests offer a suitable environment for elm oyster mushrooms to grow, and these mushrooms contribute to the diverse ecology of their habitats.

Cultivation and Fruiting

Hypsizygus ulmarius, The Elm Oytser Mushroom

Cultivating Elm Oyster mushrooms can be a rewarding process. They are known to have a high CO2 tolerance, making them an excellent candidate for indoor growers or grow rooms with difficulty managing fresh air requirements.


When considering a substrate for Elm Oyster mushrooms, keep in mind that they typically grow on elm, box elder, or beech trees. They always grow from the tree, never from the ground. They often appear on scars or wounds in the tree, high up.

Common substrates for growing Elm Oyster mushrooms indoors include straw, sawdust, or coffee grounds. For best results, use the pasteurized and inoculated substrate in a growing bag.


To initiate the fruiting process, it is essential to maintain a humidity level of 85-95%. You can achieve this by using a houseplant mister or spray bottle to moisten the environment daily. It is also necessary to maintain proper air exchange. Cut small slits into the growing bag to allow airflow and provide a space for mushrooms to grow outwards. The Elm Oyster mushrooms can start growing after 7 to 10 days.

Nutrition and Cooking

Browned Wild Mushrooms in a Non-stick Saute Pan Viewed from Above: Overhead view of oyster, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms cooked in butter

Nutritional Content

Elm oyster mushrooms are not only edible but also known for their nutritional content. These creamy white mushrooms contain a good amount of protein, dietary fiber, vitamin D, and potassium. They also serve as a good source of antioxidants.

Health Benefits

With a rich nutritional profile, Elm oyster mushrooms offer numerous health benefits. These include boosting the immune system, supporting heart health and promoting gut health. They have even been shown to protect cells from damage due to their antioxidant content.


Elm oyster mushrooms can be cooked in various ways, such as sautéed, roasted, or added to soups and stews. Remember to always properly clean and identify your wild mushrooms before cooking and consuming them.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Sautéed Elm Oyster Mushrooms

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add 2 cups of cleaned and sliced Elm oyster mushrooms and cook for 5-6 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder or freshly minced garlic. Serve as a side dish or add to your favorite pasta recipe.

Roasted Chicken with Elm Oyster Mushroom Sauce

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F and season your chicken with salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs and spices.
  2. Roast the seasoned chicken for 25-30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  3. Ten minutes before the chicken is done, prepare the Elm oyster mushroom sauce. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add minced garlic and Elm oyster mushrooms. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and browned.
  4. To thicken the sauce, you can add a bit of flour or cornstarch mixed with a small amount of water. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring continuously, until it reaches the desired consistency.
  5. Serve the roasted chicken topped with the Elm oyster mushroom sauce.

Foraging and Safety Tips

When foraging for elm oyster mushrooms, it’s important to know their key identification features and where to find them.

Safety Tips

Oyster mushroom identification is relatively easy, especially for beginners. However, always exercise caution and never consume a mushroom unless you are certain of its identity. A few tips to help ensure your safety include:

  • Consult a field guide or a knowledgeable experienced forager for assistance.
  • Compare the mushroom you find with multiple resources to confirm its identity.
  • Avoid consuming any mushrooms that you cannot confidently identify.

Foraging Tips

Elm oyster mushrooms can be found on elm trees, but box elder and beech trees are also possible host trees. Remember that they never grow directly from the ground. Keep the following tips in mind while foraging:

  • Search for the mushrooms during their peak season, which is usually in the fall.
  • Look for mushrooms growing on dead logs or living trees, particularly hardwoods.
  • Often, elm oyster mushrooms grow high up in a tree on scars or wounds.

Lookalikes and Poisonous Species

There are at least two poisonous look-alikes of Elm oyster mushrooms that you should be familiar with to avoid accidental ingestion:

  • Ghost Fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis): This bioluminescent mushroom glows in the dark and can cause severe symptoms if ingested, such as sweating, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, and labored breathing.
  • Some Agaricus species may resemble oyster mushrooms but can be toxic: A common example is the Yellow Stainer (Agaricus xanthodermus), which can cause gastrointestinal issues upon consumption.

When searching for Elm oyster mushrooms, remember the key identification features, such as their growth on elm trees, their singular or clustered growth patterns, and their attachment to tree scars or wounds. Do not collect mushrooms if you are uncertain about their identification.

Wrapping up the Elm Oyster Mushroom

Oyster mushroom varieties are common yet multifaceted, edible fungi and the Elm Oyster mushroom is no exception! We hope you are now confident to forage for and cook with the Elm Oyster – and to be aware of its poisonous imposters.

Don’t go yet – we’ve got much more detailed information on other mushroom varieties on our mushroom hub page!