Cinnabar Polypore

Pycnoporus cinnabarinus

Tough, fan-shaped bracket fungus; bright red-orange above and below. Grows on dead deciduous branches, twigs, and wood, mainly oak. Year-round. Cap semicircular, flat; bright cinnabar-red to orange-red; texture finely hairy. Pores angular, irregular; bright cinnabar-red to orange-red, same color as the cap. Stalk not present. Spore print white. Spores magnified are cylindrical, curved, smooth. This species is easy to spot, as both the top and underside are the same color—bright cinnabar-red to orange-red.

Lookalikes: No other small Missouri polypore is bright red-orange on the cap and on the underside.

Cap width: 1–5 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows singly or in groups of up to several on dead deciduous branches, twigs, and wood, mainly oak. It discolors the wood red.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Not edible.
Life cycle: 
This species lives within rotting wood as a network of cells (mycelium) that digests and decomposes the dead wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the “bracket” that emerges from the log—this is the reproductive structure. In polypores, spores are produced in the pores beneath and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.
Human connections: 
Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Like wildflowers, even the humblest of fungi can be strikingly beautiful. Discovering these organisms can bring out our innate capacity for awe and wonder.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials wood is made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.
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