3 Amazing Types of Oyster Mushrooms

oyster mushroom in wild
© NK-55/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cammi Morgan

Updated: July 26, 2023

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If you’re interested in foraging or growing mushrooms, you’re likely familiar with oyster mushrooms. This delightful genus of fungi contains some wonderfully choice edibles.

In this guide, we’ll broadly discuss the fungal classification of oyster mushrooms, their ecological roles, and human uses. We’ll then delve into talking about three types of oyster mushrooms, their characteristics, where they grow, and their cultivation status.

Alright, let’s jump in!

Oyster Mushrooms: Fungal Classification and a Brief Intro

Native to temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions of Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Americas, oyster mushrooms are widespread, common in much of their native ranges, and are currently one of the most cultivated mushrooms in the world.

Oyster mushrooms belong to the Pleurotus genus, which contains dozens of species, all of which are edible. In North America, one of the most widely foraged oyster mushrooms is the common oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus. A couple of other species that commonly occur in North America are Pleurotus pulmonarius and P. populinus.

Oyster mushrooms Pleurotus ostreatus

Oyster mushrooms belong to the

Pleurotus

genus.

©iStock.com/Igor Kramar

Ecological Roles

These mushrooms are wood decayers, specifically white-rot fungi, meaning they break down both cellulose and lignin in wood. As white-rot fungi, oyster mushrooms play a crucial role in returning essential nutrients to the soil through log decomposition. They also are a vital source of carbon sequestering as they utilize carbon, which they access through breaking down lignin in wood, for food and cellular growth. In the past decade, researchers have begun to focus specifically on the role of both mycorrhizal (symbiotic plant-fungi relationship) and saprobic (decomposer) fungi as crucial sources of carbon sequestration through their biological processes.

In addition to being decomposers, Pleurotus species are also predators. These mushrooms actually hunt and consume microscopic prey via a pretty incredible process. One study found that the hyphae of Pleurotus ostreatus, which are the underground filament-like growths that collectively form mycelium, contain tiny structures called toxocysts that cause paralysis and then rapid death of nematodes upon contact. Upon paralysis, P. ostreatus injects its hyphae into the nematode and essentially sucks out all its nutrients.

Oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are white-rot wood decomposers.

©LeManilo/Shutterstock.com

Human Uses

Since all Pleurotus species are edible, these mushrooms provide an abundant foraged and cultivated food source. In fact, oyster mushrooms were first cultivated on a mass scale in Germany during World War I as an answer to wartime food scarcity. Today, oyster mushrooms, specifically Pleurotus ostreatus, belong to the top three most commercially cultivated mushrooms in the world, with China contributing nearly 85% of that production.

Additionally, some research points to the potential for medicinal use of oyster mushrooms for various illnesses. For example, one study looked at the use of Pleutotus ostreatus as a potential treatment for hyperglycemia. This study found that an alcohol extract of P. ostreatus successfully produced a medically significant hypoglycemic effect in diabetic mice. Also, this study found that the application of P. ostreatus resulted in improved kidney function.

suateed mushrooms in cast iron skillet
Pleurotus ostreatus

has been mass cultivated as a culinary mushroom since WWI.

©Slatan/Shutterstock.com

3 Types of Oyster Mushrooms

Below, we’ll talk about the native distribution, morphological characteristics, and cultivation status of the following three types of oyster mushrooms:

  1. the blue oyster mushroom (Pleurotus columbinus)
  2. the pink oyster mushroom (Pleurotus djamor)
  3. the yellow oyster mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)

1. The Blue Oyster (Pleurotucolumbinus)

First on our list is the lovely blue oyster mushroom, Pleurotus columbinus. Distributed across temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, this mushroom is popular as a wild-foraged and cultivated species.

Characteristics

As the common name suggests, the blue oyster mushroom features stunning grey-blue to dark-blue caps. Usually, the color of the cap starts out more distinctly blue, fading to blue-grey with age. They feature off-white gills and stem (aka stipe), grow in clusters, and have gills that run down the length of underside of the cap and the stipe (decurrent). In comparison to the common oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, the blue oyster mushroom tends to produce a more pronounced-looking stipe, especially when young. In comparison, Pleurotus ostreatus has a rudimentary to almost non-existent stipe.

The spore print of this mushroom is also off-white to pale lilac-grey like the common oyster. The immature caps of blue oysters are convex with the margins rolled inward. As they mature, the margins lift upward and the caps expand outward. At full maturity, they tend to have wavy margins.

Cultivation

The cultivation method for blue oyster mushrooms is basically the same as the common oyster. However, Pleurotus columbinus is typically a cold-fruiting species, so fruiting temperatures often fall between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit. The blue oyster mushroom is also known for having quite aggressive, strong mycelium.

The blue oyster mushroom growing from a mossy stump

The lovely blue oyster mushroom,

Pleurotus columbinus

, is a cold-fruiting species.

©LeManilo/Shutterstock.com

2. The Pink Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus djamor)

The pink oyster mushroom is a beautiful and delicate species native to warm, subtropical, and tropical regions of the Americas and Asia.

Characteristics

Pleurotus djamor features entirely salmon-pink, eye-catching caps, and gills. They grow in tight clusters with very short, rudimentary stipes. The spore print of this stunning mushroom is also light pink. The cap range is typically between 2-4 inches across. The flesh of this species is thin, delicate, and white-pink.

Cultivation

Pink oyster mushrooms are extremely popular with farm-to-table and gourmet restaurants due to their lovely coloration and meaty flavor. Their taste is rather unique among oyster mushrooms. While most commonly cultivated oyster mushrooms taste like seafood, Pleurotus djamor has more of a ham or bacon flavor. The shelf-life of pink oysters is very short, however, due to their thin flesh. So, growers typically sell this species for use within one to three days.

As a subtropical and tropical species, the fruiting temperature of pink oysters is typically between 75-95 degrees Fahrenheit. They also require high relative humidity (95-100%) during incubation, and 85-90% for fruiting. This species also boasts some of the fastest growth times of the Pleurotus genus from inoculation to fruiting in about 4 weeks.

Pleurotus djamor, Pink Oyster mushroom

The fruiting temperature of pink oyster mushrooms is typically between 75-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

©socrates471/Shutterstock.com

3. Types of Oyster Mushrooms: The Yellow Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)

Likely native to subtropical and temperate regions of southeastern Russia and eastern Asia, the yellow oyster mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus) is an invasive species across eastern North America. The invasive status of this mushroom in North America resulted from spores escaping from cultivation and spreading throughout wild environments.

Characteristics

Featuring a lovely yellow cap, Pleurotus citrinopileatus grows in sunny clusters in dead hardwood logs and stumps. The gills and rudimentary stipe of this species are white to cream-colored. The thin, delicate caps tend to range from 1-3 inches across. The flesh of the yellow oyster mushroom is firm and white and the spore print is off-white to pale grey-lilac. These mushrooms are quite vigorous growers and are rapidly spreading throughout eastern North America. Similar to the effects of some invasive plants, the invasive status of Pleurotus citrinopileatus in North America may have concerning effects on native fungal diversity.

Cultivation

The yellow oyster mushroom is well-loved by cultivators for its lovely caps and mild, delicate taste. This species typically requires temperatures between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit to fruit. Pleurotus citrinopileatus is particularly sensitive to high carbon dioxide levels in its growing environment, which results in reduced cap size. As such, consistent fresh air exchange is especially important.

Man holding two mycelium substrate with golden oyster mushrooms, fungiculture at home, Pleurotus citrinopileatus

The yellow oyster mushroom,

Pleurotus citrinopileatus

, is particularly sensitive to high carbon dioxide levels, requiring consistent fresh air exchange during cultivation.

©Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock.com

Can You Grow Oyster Mushrooms at Home?

If you’re wondering if you can grow these species at home, the answer is a resounding yes. Oyster mushrooms represent some of the easiest, beginner-friendly cultivated mushrooms to grow.

Please note, however, that you can’t simply take the exact growing requirements for Pleurotus ostreatus, and apply them to every cultivated species or variety of oyster mushroom. For example, as mentioned above, blue oyster mushrooms typically require cold fruiting conditions, while pink oyster mushrooms require much warmer temperatures. You can, however, grow all of the above-mentioned species on similar substrates, so if you’re interested in getting started learning some basics, head over to our article on growing mushrooms at home.

Oyster mushrooms being cultivated in substrate-filled bags

For beginner and experienced cultivators alike, growing oyster mushrooms at home is a great option.

©WIRACHAIPHOTO/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Cammi Morgan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on mycology, marine animals, forest and river ecology, and dogs. Cammi has been volunteering in animal rescue for over 10 years, and has been studying mycology and field-researching mushrooms for the past 3 years. A resident of Southeast Appalachia, Cammi loves her off-grid life where she shares 20 acres with her landmates, foster dogs, and all the plants, fungi, and critters of the forest.

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