These fungi make beautiful coral-like mushrooms. They are spectacular when they fruit in large numbers on the forest floor. Single large mushrooms up to 50 pounds in weight are impressive. Colors include white, yellow, orange, red, purple, or tan. The stalks are finger-like or club-shaped. The tips of the stalks may be branched. In the most branched species, the mushroom may appear cauliflower-like. They differ from other mushrooms not only in their shape, but where their spores are produced. The upper part of the "clubs", or tips of the branches, bears the spores. They may not look like other mushrooms but they serve the same function, these fungi are difficult to identify.
More than 30 genera are reported, this is unfortunate. Some species are considered among the best to eat, but one has been reported to cause severe poisoning. A few upset the stomach and have a laxative effect in some people. If you are not an expert, take a mushroom identification class! Many mushroom clubs offer classes. Even if you are sure of the identification, only eat a small bit the first time. The same species can poison some people and have no effect on other people. They are distinctive, but can be confused with earth tongues. If a club is small and irregular in shape it may be an earth tongue (ascomycete). Club and coral mushrooms can be found in the spring, fall or winter depending on your climate. Most are decomposers. They fruit on the forest floor, twigs or logs. A few may be partners with trees (mutualists). They fruit on the forest floor. Some are parasitic on trees and other plants.