Posts Tagged ‘bracket fungus’


When RailGuy and I were out hiking near Arnprior, northwest of Ottawa, a couple of weeks ago, we spotted this amazing fungus. It’s Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). It would have been difficult to miss it! Its bright colouring really popped against the subdued hues of the forest and its size was impressive, more than 18 inches from top to bottom. Chicken of the Woods is said to be widespread and relatively common, but I hadn’t previously come across any, so was really pleased to chance upon it.

Autumn is a good time for fungus hunting. Chicken of the Woods are most likely to be found from August through October. Also known as Sulphur Shelf, it is a type of bracket fungus. The fruitbodies can be up to 30 cm across and are bright sulphur-yellow to yellowish-orange. It fruits on a variety of trees, both living and dead, both conifers and hardwoods.

Chicken on the Woods is edible and gets its odd name from a reputed similarity in flavour to, yes, chicken. We didn’t sample any, however, and left it intact. I don’t have enough confidence in my identification skills to try wild mushrooms (although I was pretty sure of this one), and even known edible mushrooms can be tricky. For example, eating Sulphur Shelf is not recommended if the fungus is growing on a conifer. Further, some people are sensitive to even normally benign fungi.

Beyond that, we were just visitors to the forest, and not part of the ecosystem. We left the fungi untouched, waiting for nature to run its course.


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Old tree stumps and logs often offer an interesting assortment of bugs and fungi. The stump pictured above features two inteteresting fungi. The larger of the two is a bracket fungus called Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor). Turkey Tail is a common fungus that can be found across much of the continent. It occurs on hardwood logs and stumps. This intricately-patterned fungus gets its name from the bands of color, which are said to resemble the tail of a strutting turkey. The colors may be tan to grey to orange or red-brown, the exact shades depending on the genetics of the particular organism and the environment it is fruiting in. Dark bands alternate with bands of a lighter shade.


Turkey Tail is a polypore. If you break off a piece and look at the underside, you’ll see tiny pores, which give entry to shallow tubes. Turkey Tail has a soft, but tough, rubbery feel. Unlike many fungi, which are short-lived, turkey tail can persist for a long time, even overwintering, so it is possible to find turkey tail at many times of the year.


Turkey Tail and other polypores play an important role in ecosystems as decomposers of wood, allowing the nutrients and minerals in old stumps and logs to be recycled into the soil. It can take several hundred years to recycle a large fallen tree and slowly release its nutrients so that other forest organisms can use them. Turkey Tail causes a white rot of wood. That is, it breaks down the lignin of the wood and leaves the cellulose behind. There are other fungi that cause a brown rot, digesting the cellulose and leaving the lignin behind.


Between the time when I first spotted the Turkey Tail to the morning when I went back to photograph it a few days later, a second fungus had appeared on the stump. This second fungus is very different in appearance from the Turkey Tail, with reddish-brown, bell-shaped caps held on fragile-looking stalks. It’s sometimes called Blood-foot, or The Bleeding Mushroom (Mycena haematopus). It grows in small clusters on well-rotted logs or stumps, usually without bark. Fruiting from spring to fall, it is widespread and common.


Its name is derived from the way in which a reddish, blood-like juice oozes out when you break the stalk. How much liquid drains out depends on factors such as the age of the specimen and how dry the substrate is. The species name, haematopus, means “blood foot” in Greek.


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Many thanks to Birdgirl, who I’m sure you will agree, did a great job filling in with a couple of posts while I was away from my computer!
When I returned to Willow House, Birdgirl and I were able to visit for a while, and took grandog Raven for a walk over at the nearby Robert Graham Trail.


The Robert Graham Trail is dedicated to a past chair of the South Nation Conservation Authority. The 136 acre site was acquired in the early 1960s and features conifer plantations and natural hardwood forests. It provides habitat for deer, birds, and other wildlife in an area that features heavy agricultural use. Pictured above is a beautiful, mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) located near the entrance to the trail.


The main trail loops through the interior of the site and around the eastern edge. The initial mixed woodland quickly gives way to a Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) plantation. Parts of the plantation have significant undergrowth and fallen trees, which impart a more natural look to the maturing plantation, while other areas still feature conspicuous rows of conifers. Stands of Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) are also represented.


While the trail appears to have once been well-groomed, there is little evidence of any recent maintenance, and the pathway deteriorates significantly toward the back half of the property, at times nearly disappearing in the undergrowth. Boggy sections that once had corduroy walkways are now difficult to navigate without incurring wet feet.


The more abundant wildflowers of spring are done, though a few mostly-inconspicuous summer bloomers were flowering. A number of fern species gave the forest floor a lush appearance, including tall Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), pictured above.


A few different fungus species were observed. One of the most interesting was this bracket fungus, probably Lacquered Polypore (Ganoderma lucidum).


There were a few patches of Running Ground Pine (Lycopodium clavatum), a low-growing, spore-bearing plant of moist, shaded woodlands. The scientific name means wolf’s foot [from the Greek: lukos (wolf) and podos (foot)]. Spores develop in globular cones held on long stalks at the ends of branches. The spores were used by Native Americans to treat cuts and skin abrasions. The spores are highly flammable. They were once used by photographers and theatre performers as flash powder.

Recent rains have left the low-lying areas quite muddy and lots of mosquitoes accompanied our passage through the woods. The trail would probably be more enjoyable in the fall, when the worst of the insects are done and the trees are decked out in their autumn colours. Still, it was a pleasant walk in spite of the hazards.


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dryad's saddle 2

Near the barn door, a large tree stump is decorated with an impressive bracket fungus called Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus). Dryad’s Saddle fruits in the spring and fall on hardwood stumps and logs, or living trees, and is widespread and common. Bracket fungi are excellent wood rotters and play an important role in breaking down woody debris.

dryad's saddle 3

The fruitbodies are kidney-shaped or round, and can be quite large. The background colour is yellowish to tan, with an interesting pattern of dark brown flattened scales. While most fungi turn to mush within a few days of fruiting, bracket fungi can persist for longer periods, in some cases even through winter, as the fleshy fruitbodies become touch and rigid.


In bracket fungi, the spores are produced in tubes that open by pores on the underside of the fruitbody. Because of this, these fungi are sometimes called polypores. The tubes can be shallow or more than a centimeter deep. Inside the fruitbody, there are thin-walled hyphae, or filaments for the transport of nutrients and the production of spores. Most bracket fungi contain thick-walled dead hyphae as well that give the fruitbody its rigid toughness. Dryad’s Saddle fungi can have a short stalk.


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