The caps may be laterally attached (with no stem). If there is a stem, it is normally eccentric and the gills are decurrent along it. The term pleurotoid is used for mushrooms having this general shape.
The spores are smooth and elongated (described as "cylindrical"). Where hyphae meet, they are joined by clamp connections. Pleurotus is not considered to be a bracket fungus, and most of the species are monomitic (with a soft consistency). However, remarkably, Pleurotus dryinus can sometimes be dimitic, meaning that it has additional skeletal hyphae, which give it a tougher consistency like bracket fungi.
Oyster mushrooms are popular for cooking, torn up instead of sliced, especially in stir fry or sauté, because they are consistently thin, and so will cook more evenly than uncut mushrooms of other types.
More recently, molecular phylogenetics has been utilized to determine genetic and evolutionary relationships between groups within the genus, delineating discrete clades.Pleurotus, along with the closely related genus Hohenbuehelia, has been shown to be monophyletic. Tests of cross-breeding viability between groups have been used to further define which groups are deserving of species rank, as opposed to subspecies, variety, or synonymy. If two groups of morphologically distinct Pleurotus fungi are able to cross-breed and produce fertile offspring, they meet one definition of species. These reproductively discrete groups, referred to as intersterility groups, have begun to be defined in Pleurotus. Many binomial names used in literature are now being grouped together as species complexes using this technique, and may change.
The following species list is organized according to 1. phylogenetic clade, 2. intersterility group (group number in Roman numerals) or sub-clade, and then 3. any older binomial names that have been found to be closely related, reproductively compatible, or synonymous, although they may no longer be taxonomically valid. This list is likely to be incomplete.
^Barron, GL; Thorn, RG (1987). "Destruction of nematodes by species of Pleurotus". Canadian Journal of Botany65 (4): 774–778. doi:10.1139/b87-103.
^ abThorn, R. Greg; Moncalvo, Jean-Marc; Reddy, C. A.; Vilgalys, Rytas (Mar–Apr 2000). "Phylogenetic Analyses and the Distribution of Nematophagy Support a Monophyletic Pleurotaceae within the Polyphyletic Pleurotoid-Lentinoid Fungi". Mycologia92 (2): 241–252. doi:10.2307/3761557. JSTOR3761557.
^ abcdefghVilgalys, R.; Moncalvo, J.M.; Liou, S.R.; Volovsek, M. (1996). "Recent advances in molecular systematics of the genus Pleurotus" (PDF). In Royse, D.J. Mushroom biology and mushroom products: proceedings of the 2nd International Conference, June 9–12, 1996. University Park, PA (USA): Pennsylvania State University: World Society for Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products. pp. 91–101.
^ abcdefSegedin, BP; Buchanan, PK; Wilkie, JP (1995). "Studies in the agaricales of New Zealand: New species, new records and renamed species of Pleurotus (Pleurotaceae)". Australian Systematic Botany8 (3): 453–482. doi:10.1071/SB9950453.
^Alma E. Rodriguez Estrada, Maria del Mar Jimenez-Gasco and Daniel J. Royse (May–June 2010). "Pleurotus eryngii species complex: Sequence analysis and phylogeny based on partial EF1α and RPB2 genes". Fungal Biology114 (5–6): 421–428. doi:10.1016/j.funbio.2010.03.003. PMID20943152.
^Zervakis, Georgios I.; Moncalvo, Jean-Marc; Vilgalys, Rytas (2004). "Molecular phylogeny, biogeography and speciation of the mushroom species Pleurotus cystidiosus and allied taxa". Microbiology150 (3): 715–726. doi:10.1099/mic.0.26673-0.
^Miller, O.K. (1994). "Observations on the genus Omphalotus in Australia". Mycologia Helvetica2: 91–100.