Oyster Mushroom in Maple Tree Experiment

May 31, 2011 · 16 comments

Oyster mushroom spawn plugs

Around our place, Henry’s projects are often multi-purpose because he keeps both ecology and utility in mind. In this case, he’s attempting to provide good habitat for birds and bugs, allow his prized coast redwoods to grow as fast and as well as possible, and put food on the table.

Five years ago, he underplanted a couple hundred coast redwoods below a heavily thinned 60-year-old Douglas fir stand. Redwoods grow slowly in shady conditions, but they’re more likely to survive our marginal climate if they start off in the shade. Henry LOVES his redwood trees.

The redwoods are well established now, so in an effort to increase the light that reaches them and therefore their growth rate, he girdled a dozen or so 20-year-old bigleaf maple trees about three weeks ago. Girdling a standing tree will kill it and leave snag structure for pileated woodpeckers, bugs, and other forest fauna to utilize. Cutting them down now could have smashed the young redwoods or other understory plants like tall bugbane. Plus, these maples were too small to bother removing them for firewood anyway. For now, they are still quite green and completely leafed out, but they should die this summer.

Henry ordered these oyster mushroom spawn plugs online from Fungi Perfecti. The instructions direct users to drill and plug them into a freshly cut log. Henry’s program is a bit experimental because he’s plugging them into a standing, mostly alive trees. There is a chance that this method might not work very well or at all.










Henry drilled a number of ¬†2″ deep holes with a 5/16″ drill bit.

Here are the holes drilled into a filigree of snail trails.

He hammered the spawn plugs into the holes. If all goes well, these mushroom snags might produce a crop this fall or maybe next spring without any further attention or mainenance. Oyster mushrooms are delicious, so I am very much looking forward to the day we get our first harvest.









{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

marni May 31, 2011 at 10:58 am

Yum! My 5 year old says, “Can we do that?”


Camille May 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I can’t in good faith recommend it until we see the results. We’re hoping for an abundant mushroom crop.


Alicia May 31, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Hey Camille – had he cut down the tree, the timing would be great for inoculating — but I wonder how it’ll work with it still standing… Also – did he wax the holes shut after inserting the plugs? I think that is mostly to lock in moisture, and keep out saprophytic fungi that may try to consume your inoculant. I hope it works! It’s a smart idea for sure… You know, the mushroomery has a ton of different plugs also. In case you want to try any other varieties.


Camille May 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm

He didn’t do the wax because he claims the tree is full of moisture. I’ll make him chime in here to give you his thought process.


Henry May 31, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I’ve seen them growing in standing maple, usually exposed heartwood where a limb broke off. I figured I was better off seeing if I could get a flush started now, I can always plug more when the top dies. I wanted to get maximum sugar in the wood and give the bees a chance to work the flowers, even if it doesn’t work I still got some sun to my redwood trees and made some decent snags.


catie May 31, 2011 at 3:08 pm

oyster mushrooms… sauteed in butter…
can’t wait to see how this turns out.


Marlyn May 31, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Camille, we are doing a similar experiment — shiitake plugs in oak branches! A large oak fell across my friend’s street in our big rain storm last month. My husband went over to help clear the roadway and came howe with four large branches for me to inoculate (and a small pile of nice firewood — being neighborly has its perks!). I also tried to start a morel habitat — I’ll report back with developments! I hope your experiment (and mine) work out!


Henry May 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I’ve had good luck making morels flush by burning and adding river sand and gypsum……


Camille May 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Sounds like you’re doing everything right. Good luck!


David May 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm

The waiting period in advance of plugging is to allow the break-down of anti-fungal compounds that the tree itself produces. Those compounds, as well as residual moisture, are primarily in the sapwood of the tree. I have heard that springtime just after leaf-out is the best time to girdle trees in order to prevent resprouting and produce firewood later on. This is because the roots of the tree have expended their stored energy into putting on those leaves, and very little energy will be left to make stump sprouts. The leaves meanwhile do a great job of sucking every last bit of moisture out of the trunk, thereby seasoning the wood. So, that might be a bit of a setback for mushrooms…. Perhaps Henry could girdle the tree again 6 or ten feet higher on the trunk to sort of cut off that segment and retain the moisture?


Henry May 31, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I did a range of girdle heights to see what works best, one tree I ripped all the bark off. Last year I cut some maple at bud break and the sapwood made a big pile of goo around the stump.


Leah Ballin October 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Hi Henry,
Any word on the results? I’m making a forestry plan for our campus forest (at the University of British Columbia) and am trying to incorporate as many NTFPs as possible. I think I’m trying to do a similar thing to yourself in planting red cedar under the maple trees and inoculating the maples with oyster mushrooms at the same time.

What girdling height worked best? Do you think the trees should be girdled before innoculating? Does it even make sense to innoculate the tree or is it best to just wait till the seedlings get a head start, chop the tree, and innoculate a wood pile?

Thanks a lot for your help and for your awesome blog!!



L wybrant January 22, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Have you tried any plugs on a red cedar. I have them here and they are considered an invasive species. I am interested to see if any species of edible mushrooms can be grown on the cedars


John April 30, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Hi! I realise this post being very old, but if you see this message could you please tell if the experiment worked out or not?
I was thinking about doing something similar.



Corey October 15, 2017 at 2:46 am

I’m interested in growing some morels. What would be the best and easiest way go about it?


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