Grayish brown bracket fungus; zoned top; furrowed, mazelike underside. Grows singly or in small, layered clusters. June–December, but can be found all year. Cap shelflike, with concentric zones of gray to brown; texture: corky, firm. Pores circular or elongated, mazelike; white to brownish, sometimes bruising pinkish or reddish. Stalk not present. Spore print white. Spores magnified are cylindrical, smooth, curved, colorless.
Lookalikes: Hexagonal-pored polypore (Polyporus alveolaris) has hexagonal pores.
Cap width: 1–6 inches.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows singly or in small, layered clusters on dead wood or in wounds of living trees, in deciduous woods.
This species exists as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting wood. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops these brackets outside the wood, and these are reproductive structures. Spores are produced in the pores and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium can live for decades.
Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Discovering these wonders can bring out our childlike sense of awe. The pattern on the underside of this bracket polypore is quite beautiful! Take a look with a hand lens.
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.
Mushrooms are a lot like plants, but they lack chlorophyll and have to take nutrients from other materials. Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are in a different kingdom — the fungi. Fungi include the familiar mushroom-forming species, plus the yeasts, molds, smuts, and rusts.
Always be cautious when eating edible mushrooms. Be absolutely sure of the ID, and only eat a small amount the first time you try it to avoid a reaction..