Common Split Gill

Family: 
Schizophyllaceae
Description: 

Small, white, hairy, fan-shaped caps; beneath, whitish or pinkish gill-like folds that split toward the edge. Grows in clusters on dead branches. Year-round. Cap fan-shaped; whitish to grayish; texture dry, hairy, leathery. Underside whitish to grayish to pinkish; hairy, with gill-like folds that are split lengthwise to the cap margin. Stalk not present, or tiny. Spore print white. Spores magnified are cylindrical, smooth.

There are no lookalikes in Missouri.

Size: 
Cap width: ¼–1½ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows in groups on dead branches of deciduous trees; found on every continent on the planet. This is a very common and cute little mushroom. It’s easy to identify if you check for the split gills underneath the cap. It shrivels up during dry times and revives when wet conditions return.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
Not edible.
Life cycle: 
This species lives as a network of cells (mycelium) within dead branches as a saprobe, and living branches as a parasite, that digests and decomposes the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the caps that emerge from the log—these are reproductive structures. Spores are produced in the gill-like folds beneath and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.
Human connections: 
Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Many mushrooms are most prominent in the fall, when wildflowers are winding down. Take a few minutes to look closely and appreciate the intricate architecture of these organisms.
Ecosystem connections: 
Fungi are vitally important for a healthy ecosystem. This fungus feeds off of dead or dying trees, decomposing them in the process. This cleans the forest and helps nutrients to cycle back into the soil—an unglamorous but vital role in the ecosystem.