If you live near birch trees, chances are you live near the conspicuous wood-eating fungus known as Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus). Whereas Tinder Conk fruiting bodies are perennial (capable of growing for multiple years), the fruiting bodies of Birch Polypore are annuals, growing for just a few months (typically in late summer and fall), though spent shelves may linger on trunks or fallen branches for years. Trees may host dozens of decaying specimens. Living mushrooms can be recognized by their smooth white or light brown pore surface, which is unlike the weathered, winter specimens shown here.
Greg Marley* writes that immunomodulating tinctures, teas and decoctions can be made from fresh fruiting bodies, though he forewarns that decoctions and teas are strongly bitter.
Flat slices of Birch Polypore can be used as a leather-like strop to refine a knife's edge. And, as if the flammable bark of the host (Birch) trees was not enough of a gift, Birch Polypore mushrooms, when dried and shredded, make excellent fire-making tinder. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)
*For a more detailed profile of Birch Polypore, consult Greg Marley's book Mushrooms for Health: Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi (2009, pages 108-111).
Note: All trees pictured are Gray Birch (Betula populifolia).