Category Archives: Wild Medicine

Medicinal Mushrooms: Red-banded Polypore

Photo of Red-banded Polypore

Fomitopsis pinicola is a widespread wood-eating medicinal mushroom who goes by the common names Red-belted Conk and Red-banded Polypore. This species often grows on dead or dying conifers, but can also consume various hardwoods. I found today's feature on a dead Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Photo of Red-banded Polypore pore surface
A portion of this image was featured in Quiz #129: Natural Mystery.

Red-banded Polypore has a cream-colored pore surface, from which reproductive spores are released. This tough polypore is perennial, often persisting for years. Though not well known as a medicinal, Greg Marley writes that decoctions and tinctures made from this tree mushroom are anti-inflammatory and immune system supporting. For more on the medicinal constituents of Fomitopsis pinicola, consult Marley’s book Mushrooms for Health: Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi (2009), p. 116-119.

Oh, and one more thing. Anyone in need of a full belly laugh should read the top paragraph of page 579 of Mushrooms Demystified (1986) by David Arora, which addresses the edibility (or rather inedibility) of this species. I'm not kidding, it's hilarious.

Subshrub ID: Red Bearberry

Photo of Red Bearberry

Red Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is an evergreen subshrub of mountaintops, rocky outcrops, grasslands, and sandy sites and grows wild in northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. The shrub's leaves are thick and shiny, about 1" long, and widest near the tip. The sprawling stems are noticeably fuzzy, and, with the use of a hand lens or loupe, fine hairs are also visible on the margins of young leaves. Continue reading Subshrub ID: Red Bearberry

Medicinal Mushrooms: Hemlock Reishi

Photo of Hemlock Reishi

Hemlock Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) closely resembles another tree-growing shelf fungus called Red Reishi (G. lucidum). Fruiting bodies of Hemlock Reishi usually have a dark red/brown stem, though they are occasionally stemless. In the photo above, the stem is mostly hidden from view, but stems can be seen on several of the fungi pictured in Quiz #112. Young fruiting bodies have a red-to-orange cap with a white margin and a white pore surface. Once mature, caps turn a uniform deep red and often become coated with spores (see below).

Photo of Hemlock Reishi (old)

As you might guess, Hemlock Reishi typically grows on Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), unlike Red Reishi which typically grows on hardwoods. Both species are said to have similar medicinal properties (for details on this, read chapter 7 of Mushrooms for Health: Medicinal secrets of northeastern fungi by Greg Marley).

Winter Plant ID: Common Burdock

Photo of Common Burdock

Plants have many ways of catching our attention.  Some have strong scents, others have bright and showy flowers, and then there are those who quite literally grab us.  For instance, take Common Burdock (Arctium minus).  The seed heads of this biennial are composed of hundreds of bracts tipped with sharp hooks, which cling tenaciously to animal fur and many types of human clothing and thereby help the plant's seeds disperse across the landscape. This strategy, along with the fact that many people enjoy eating Burdock's taproots and peeled stalks, has helped this European/Asian plant to become widely established throughout the United States.  In addition to being a food source, Common Burdock is a widely used medicinal.

Photo of Common Burdock close