Friday, 23 September 2016

Birch Polypore

There's not much going on in my garden at present, so today I'm going to show you some photos of an interesting fungus I saw on Velmead Common. It is Piptoporus Betulinus, the Birch Polypore.

As the name suggests, this fungus grows mainly in and on Birch trees, which are abundant in our part of the world. It seems to grow particularly well on dead wood. In fact the fungus normally enters the host tree through a wound or a broken branch. Over time, the fungus can promote brown rot, which will eventually kill the tree.

When I am walking in the woods I am continually scanning the ground around me, looking for interesting plants, creatures or fungi, and I don't always remember to look UP as well. On this occasion I more or less came face to face with a tree that had several Birch Polypores growing on it:

The Birch Polypore is a type of "bracket fungus" and the fruiting bodies of the fungus burst out from the bark of the host tree and form a sort of ledge (or bracket). They come in many different shapes and sizes. This one is typical. I looks like a huge solidified drip!

This one with the scalloped edge was a bit high up for me to photograph properly - hence the blurry photo.

This one was flatter, with a russetty-brown upper surface.

I read on Wikipedia that "The fungus can harbor a large number of species of insects that depend on it for food and as breeding sites." Zooming in on the fungus in the previous photo, you can see a tiny creature of some sort just below the wound in the fungus itself.

In theory this type of fungus is edible, or at least not poisonous. The description given in the Wikipedia entry doesn't inspire me to want to eat it though: "Technically, it is an edible mushroom, with a strong, pleasant "mushroomy" odor but a bitter taste. "  The texture doesn't sound too endearing either: "...a rubbery texture, becoming corky with age."  I think I'll confine myself to observing it!

On the same day as that on which I saw the Birch Polypore I also saw this. I'm fairly sure it is a Boletus Edulis, aka Penny Bun, Cep, Porcino etc.

If I had been sure of its identity I would probably have brought it home and cooked it (though I wouldn't have been the first to have a nibble, evidently!)

Finally, this one. I don't know what it is, but it doesn't look edible to me. Possibly a member of the Russula (Brittlegill) family?

Early Autumn is usually the best time of year for fungi-spotting, and I'm considering joining a tutored Fungi Walk taking place near us in a couple of weeks.

I've often thought it would be nice to know a bit more about fungi, so this could be my chance!


  1. Some fascinating fungi - great captures.

  2. Very interesting! Maybe I should share some of the fungi growing around my part of the world. Awesome photos!

    1. Yes, please do! I'm sure lots of people would find them interesting.

  3. Yes that is a porcini but never take mushroom if it nibbled by slugs.

    1. Well this is what I was told by a professional. He said the taste is deteriorated and don't worth it.

    2. Well, I'm sorry, but I can't see how a bit of nibbling by a slug could make the taste deteriorate. I'd eat the mushroom and take a chance on it!

  4. I think Ceps are one of the mushrooms that are easy to identify. Just one or 2 look similar that are bad. A good book will easily show the differences of what to look out for. Parasol mushrooms and Horse / field mushrooms are my favourites. Very difficult to get them wrong once someone has shown you what to look for. There are some tell tale signs to look for, looks but also time of year and where you find them.

    A couple of courses, run by different people, and a couple of books and you'll be away :) I found that I learnt how to identify 5 or 6 common ones that I liked the taste of, and then only ever picked those. You can't become an expert on all mushrooms but you can easily become an expert if you target a few of the best edibles and ignore the rest.

    Dried ceps, Porchini(?spelling) used to be very expensive in the shops but I found a place in Northumberland where we could pick hundreds of them (not that I took more than a few) and sat eating them with gas stove and some garlic right where they were picked. Fantastic.

    I've also eaten lots where slugs have nibbled...just like I would with radish or anything else :)

    1. Oh my, a place where you could pick hundreds of Ceps! I don't think I've ever seen more than one or two together.


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