In other parts of the world Laetiporus sulphureus is known as chicken of the woods and is considered a good edible mushroom. I had not heard of any occurence in Australia, but Ray Palmer of north Queensland has reported it growing on Eucalyptus near his home. You can see Ray’s pictures on his Flickr site, here.
I would emphasise that I have not eaten this mushroom, and I am not aware that Ray or anyone else has either. So it is in the ‘potential’ category for the moment. But an exciting prospect!
Note 26/2/2013. Since it is reported as edible in the comments below, I have upgraded this to the ‘edible but untried’ category.
If should be noted that the edibility of L. sulphureus depends on the substrate. On this page, they recommend that you don’t eat it if it is growing on Eucalyptus.
If anyone has any further information on this, I would be most interested to hear about it.
As noted in the comments below, Forthferalz has drawn my attention to some other references to this fungus in Australia. This picture is provided by blueswami.
I am not sure what angle this was taken at, but in comparison with other pictures, it seems to be upside down. I think it looks more realistic like this:
There appears to be quite a wide variety of morphologies and colours for this genus. Even in North America, where it is widely consumed, there appears to be differences between the east and west coast experiences, as well as some confusion about which species is being consumed.
I have recently had the chance to observe this mushroom first hand in the Dorrigo/Bellingen area of NSW. It was growing on fallen logs and on the base of a living tree which was also host to Omphalotus nidiformis. These observations were made in March of a dryish year and I was able to see examples of it over a range of forests. Here is a picture of one on an exposed lateral root of a rainforest tree along with Omphalotus.
Laetiporus sp. together with Omphalotus nidiformis
I haven’t shown a picture of the pores, but they were white . This isn’t the right colour for Laetiporus sulphureus. It is interesting also that this species appears to be restricted to the warmer regions of the country, while L. sulphureus grows in places like England.
Some light is thrown on this subject by Michael Kuo, the Mushroom Expert. His comments can be found at this link.
It seems that there are numerous closely related species of Laetiporus in the US. It is entirely possible that the species here in Australia is yet another one. The fact that the ones I have observed grow at ground level indicates that they are not L. sulphureus. To my knowledge it has not been formally named yet. Neither has it’s edibility been established. Given that there have been numerous cases of people experiencing gastro-intestinal distress from eating various forms of this mushroom in America, it is entirely possible that our local species will cause the same problems. So there it stands. At first exciting, but in the end an enigma.