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Best tree species for shiitake logs

Shiitakes fruiting on sycamore logs

The word "shiitake" literally means "oak mushroom," so it's no surprise that red and white oaks are widely considered to be the best American trees to cut for shiitake production. But what if you live in a low and wet area with few oaks present? We've successfully fruited shiitakes on sycamores in the past (as you can see above), but with another set of plugs arriving in the middle of February, I wanted to expand our host trees. Based on about a dozen websites, here's an analysis of the best to worst eastern U.S. trees for shiitake production.

Best:

  • White oak --- a bit slower to produce the first harvest than red oak, but widely considered to be the best species for shiitake production
  • Red oak --- a close second

Nearly as good:

  • Sweetgum --- Logs only last two to three years, but very productive
  • Ironwood --- Logs only last two to three years, and are slow to fruit in the first place, but produce good harvests in the interim
  • Sugar maple --- Bark can damage easily when logs are moved, but otherwise a good species
  • Beech --- Same caveat as sugar maple

Some sites list these as excellent, some as only fair:

  • Chestnut
  • Hop hornbeam
  • Black willow

Good to fair:

  • Cherry --- Specifically good for warm-weather strains and Night Velvet
  • Bitternut hickory (and possibly other hickories, but several sites list bitternut as good and all other hickories as bad)
  • Black birch --- The mushrooms in early flushes are small, but the logs improve with age. Good for Double Jewel and Native Harvest.
  • Black gum --- Logs don't last long.
  • Red maple --- Some say to avoid, but Field and Forest says to use with warm-weather strains, Double Jewel, and Native Harvest
  • Live oak
  • Alder
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sycamore
  • Basswood
  • Yellow birch
  • Butternut
  • River birch
  • Silver maple

Possibly to be avoided (although some sites list these as fair to good):

  • Ash
  • Sassafras (Field and Forest says these logs are okay and have the benefit of being drought tolerant)
  • Tulip poplar
  • Aspen
  • Paper birch
  • Elm

Definitely to be avoided:

  • Conifers
  • Fruit trees
  • Hackberry
  • Sourwood
  • Dogwood
  • Black locust
  • Walnut

In addition to species, you should consider the growth habit and location of the tree. Fertile sites produce good mushroom logs, probably because the trees grow quickly and have little of the inedible-to-shiitakes heartwood and lots of sapwood instead. Similarly, rocky hillsides and wet places tend to produce logs lower in nutrients from a mushroom point of view.

Mark and I need about eighteen logs for our upcoming mushroom-plugging day, and I'm thinking of trying at least three or four species from the top of this list to get an idea for which species work best here. I can definitely come up with some ironwood and beech, and maybe even an oak within carrying distance of our core homestead. Time to explore the woods with shiitakes in mind!



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I'm curious to know where you got the information on tree species and mushrooms. A neighbor and I have been trying to figure out which tree species would be good for both hen of the woods and chicken of the woods mushrooms, with no luck on finding the info needed. Can you recommend a website?

Thanks.

Comment by Nayan Sat Jan 31 14:28:23 2015
Nayan --- I just google until I turn up enough sites that they start repeating (or contradicting) each other. You'll probably have best results if you google maitake instead of hen of the woods (or even better, their scientific names). Looking at sites that sell spawn is always a good start since certain varieties within each species require certain types of trees to grow on, and the website in question will give you that data. I should warn you, though, that neither hen of the woods nor chicken of the woods are on the easy-to-cultivate list.
Comment by anna Sat Jan 31 14:52:32 2015
paul stamets' (author of mycelium running) fungi perfecti has tons of cultural information as well as spawn---you can find it here: http://www.fungi.com/home.html
Comment by melina w staal Sat Jan 31 19:52:08 2015
Any experience using Black Oak with Shiitake? Thank you.
Comment by LA Romero Thu Oct 29 13:08:53 2015
LA Romero --- I don't have any first-hand information on black oaks, but I suspect they'd be similar to the closely related red oaks.
Comment by anna Thu Oct 29 16:29:28 2015

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