Fungi Fun: Brackets

Meripilus giganteus, Giant Polypore

 

Too early for most of the traditional fungi with gills but still a lot of interesting bracket fungi to be appreciated.

They are usually tough and woody causing white and brown rots which break down dead wood. They are long-lasting and to be found on most stumps and many fallen branches in woods and parks. Sometimes they can be seen on living trees. Not usually a good sign of the health of the tree but not necessarily fatal.

Species of the Ganoderma family can be seen on may trees, mainly beech and oak. Large fan-shaped brackets with fine pores on a pale underside that turns brown where scratched. Ganodema applanatum is known as Artists Fungus. It looks like a palette and you can draw on the underside. Ganoderma australe, Southern Bracket is very similar. Other Ganodermas are less common. All are used for medicinal purposes especially in Asia. On a visit to China I saw shops dedicated to these fungi.

 

Ganodema applanatum, Artists Fungus
Ganodema applanatum, Artists Fungus

 

Ganodema applanatum, Artists Fungus
Ganodema applanatum, Artists Fungus

 

Meripilus giganteus, Giant Polypore, is another very large species usually growing at the base of trees and stumps, usually beech. This is a destructive parasite and if reported to your local authority it will consider cutting the tree down as a safety measure.

 

Meripilus giganteus, Giant Polypore
Meripilus giganteus, Giant Polypore

 

Fomitopsis (Piptoporus) betulinus, the Birch Polypore, can be found on most dead birch trees. It is also known as Razor Strop Fungus because it was used by barbers to hone a fine finish to cut throat razors. It has medicinal uses as an antiseptic to clean wounds and as a plaster. A piece was found in the pouch of Otzi, the 5000 year old man found mummified in the Alps in 1991. It is also a tinder fungus because it smoulders when put in a tin. It can then be taken to the fields and used to light a fire.

 

Fomitopsis (Piptoporus) betulinus, Birch Polypore
Fomitopsis (Piptoporus) betulinus, Birch Polypore

 

Another tinder fungus that was also found amongst Otzi’s possessions is Fomes fomentarius or Hoof Fungus. Another large, corky species, looking like a Ganoderma except that it is hoof shaped. It likes birch and beech but can be seen on other trees.

 

Fomes fomentarius, Hoof Fungus
Fomes fomentarius, Hoof Fungus

 

One of the most common families is Trametes. The very common Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail can be seen everywhere on many stumps, dead trees and branches. There are a number of very similar members of the family that are also common. They all have a series of coloured zones or bands but Turkey Tail can usually be separated because it has brightly coloured zones, at least one being black. The others are usually paler. All Trametes have pores on the underside. Said to be an antioxidant but the best health benefit is probably searching for it in the fresh air.

 

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail
Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail 

 

The largest Trametes is Trametes gibbosa. It can usually be found on large stumps and fallen trees, particularly beech. It is white with faint bands and is known as Lumpy Bracket because the attachment to the dead wood is usually a lump. It has a thick edge and the pores are large and elongated. It is attractive to algae and often looks green.

 

Trametes gibbosa, Lumpy Bracket
Trametes gibbosa, Lumpy Bracket

 

All the above species grow all year and some remain for many years on the substrate.

 

By Tony Carter