Maitake in Japanese means "dancing mushroom" (mai means dance, take means mushroom). A legend states that its name derives from the fact that people danced for joy when they found this mushroom in the forest. The Shoguns in Japan certainly danced for joy when, presenting themselves, among other gifts, with the Maitake, in the feudal era, the local lords paid it by weight in silver. Another story says that the name of the dancing mushroom comes from the shape of the fruiting body which appears like a cloud of dancing butterflies.
In English it is called “Hen of the woods” which means “hen of the woods”. In fact, the mushroom, growing in groups, resembles the tail of downy feathers of a brooding hen. Due to its size and its many properties it is also called the "king of mushrooms". Its Latin name is “Grifola frondosa”. Some scholars believe that its name derives from the “Griffin” a mythological animal with the head and wings of an eagle and the hind legs and tail of a lion. Frondosa means “leaf-shaped” because the overlapping fruiting bodies look like leaves. According to oriental tradition it grows "where lightning has created a fissure in the trunk of a tree". The known Maitake growing areas were called “treasure islands” and where to find them was a carefully kept secret passed down only to children.
It is one of the most studied mushrooms for its medicinal properties. Traditionally it was considered a tonic to increase vitality and enhance the immune response and a useful remedy in the treatment of hypertension and the prevention of cancer.