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Lentinula edodes is native to various countries in east Asia.  Most commonly they are found in Japan and China.  They grow best in cool, dry to moist (but not wet), and dark conditions.  Temperature strongly affects two different aspects of the mushroom's life... mycelia growth and the fruiting body growth.  Mycelia growth is strongest between 41 and 90 F (5-32 C), while the fruiting body grows best in temperatures between 50 and 68 F (10-20 C).  The fruiting body also requires more humidity and light than the mycelia does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is Lentinula edodes growing on a log.  Shiitake mushrooms can usually be found on species of trees that belong to the Fagaceae family.

       http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/nov05/k3024-9.htm     

Leading Role

Like all fungi, the Shiitake mushroom plays and important role in the decomposition of its environment.  As a member of the Basidiomycota phylum, Lentinula edodes is capable of synthesizing lignin peroxidase.  Lignin peroxidase is an enzyme  in plants found in their secondary walls, which means they are able to digest wood.  Not so oddly enough, Lentinula edodes is usually found growing on trees or fallen logs.  Lentinula has been shown to be susceptible to a mold called Sporodinia grandis.  Since Lentinula edodes is cultivated so frequently without complete crop failure, it should be noted that the Shiitake is not as susceptible to this mold compared to other species of Lentinula.