Last Wednesday, the first day the Smoky Mountain National Park reopened, Hub and I happened upon this strange looking fungus in Cades Cove. There were several people looking at it, but no one knew what type of mushroom it was. After making these photos, we drove on until we found a park ranger. We showed him the photos, and asked if he knew what the fungus was. He told us he was no expert, but it looked like an edible mushroom that the locals called "Chicken in the Woods".
The Chicken Mushroom, Polyporus sulphureus, cannot be missed, once it is encountered. Large, bright lemon-yellow to orange clusters, one cap growing above the other, tile-fashion, grow out from the trunks of oaks and other trees, the lemon-yellow color being confined to the lower surface. Nothing in the fungus line looks like it. Only the young, knob-like beginnings of caps should be eaten, as the rest of the plant is tough. ~Louis C. C. Krieger, The Mushroom Handbook, 1967, page 111.
It was way too pretty to eat, and I never pick wild mushrooms anyway. My parents put a fear of mushrooms in us akin to that of snakes--they are all bad! I like them just fine and get them at the supermarket regularly, but never from the woods. In the unlikely event of being lost in the woods, I would be sure to remember this one because of its color.