Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulina) Identification

 Birch Polypore /All Year/ Medicinal/ Edible

Common Name

Birch Polypore, Razor Strop Fungus.


 

Scientific Name

Piptoporus Betulina


Family

Fomitopsidaceae


Habitat & Lookalikes

Birch polypore grows primarily on birch trees and has no look-alikes. You can sometimes find them in big clusters all over trees also.

Lairich Rig / Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)

Description

A large bracket develops from a small white spherical swelling on the side of dead or living birch trees. Very common in Europe and North America.


Identifying Features of the Birch Polypore Mushroom:

Cap

Grey-brown at first and almost spherical, flattening and turning browner on top and white underneath as it matures. 10 to 25cm in diameter and 2 to 6cm thick when fully mature, they grow singly but there are often several on the same host tree so that from a distance they look like a series of steps. 

AJC1 from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

As they age they can get a greenish covering over the caps

AnemoneProjectors, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Stem

No real stem.


Tubes and Pores

Small white tubes are packed together at a density of 3 or 4 per mm

I.Sáček, senior, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spore Print

White.


Smell

Pleasant mushroom smell.


In food

Not generally eaten as the texture is like Styrofoam once they are large, small ones can be eaten, they have a citrusy flavour. This isn’t to say they couldn’t be eaten with some innovation.


Medicine

An amazing mushroom that has been used medicinally for many millennium. It has lots of uses including:

Antiviral. In tests extracts from the Birch Polypore blocked reproduction in HIV cells, and has proved positive in treating flu, yellow fever and West Nile flu.

Antibiotic. The Birch Polypore contains the antibiotic piptamine which has been used to treat e-coli.

Anti-inflammatory. There are several triterpene acids present and these are known to be anti-inflammatory.

Anti-Tumour. Betulenic acid and other chemicals in the fungi have been shown to destroy cancer cells while not affecting healthy cells.

Antiseptic. For cleaning wounds and being an aid to healing.

Antifungal. This mushroom does not like to share its habitat with other mushrooms and contains some powerful antifungals.


Other uses

As its common name suggest this fungus has been used in the past by barber to sharpen their razor blades, it has also a useful tinder fungus as it will easily take a hot spark. A field dressing or sticking plaster can be made from the porous underside.


Known hazards

None known.


Harvesting

The brackets are annual but may persist through one winter.


Potential lookalikes

It is difficult to confuse this polypore with any other species because of its distinctive colouring and specific restriction to birch trees.

 

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