This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
What frequenter of the summer and autumn woods has failed to observe that occasional dense cluster of creamy-colored, coral-like growth such as I have indicated at Plate 30, and who has thought to gather up its fragile, succulent mass with designs on the cook? I have seen clusters of this fungus so dense and ample as to strikingly suggest a huge cauliflower, and representing many pounds in weight. But in the absence of popular appreciation it must needs decay by "whole hundred-weights" in the woods.
This is the Clavaria, or coral fungus - more literally translated, though less appropriate to this particular species, "club fungus" - a representative of a genus containing many edible species.
The one presented in the Plate is Clavaria for-mosa, or the elegant Clavaria. It grows from four to six inches in height, is deep creamy yellow or pale orange buff in color, and slightly reddish at tips of branches. It has a sweet taste, a fragile, brittle consistency, and white substance; its spores are pale-ochre colored. Curtis gives thirteen edible native species. Among them are the following, which hardly call for severe technical description, as the entire group are doubtless edible:
The true "coral fungus" - Clavaria coralloides - of our woods resembles Clavaria formosa in general shape,
The White Coral Fungus but its color is white, or perhaps pale gray. Its thick stem is hollow, and its uneven, crowded branches are brittle and flesh-white. Its odor is like that of the Agaricus campestris, and it possesses a sweet, pleasant flavor. Cordier recommends it as eatable even when raw. This species is in great favor in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, where it is desiccated for winter use.