1. Identify Birch Polypore Mushrooms

How to Identify the Birch Polypore

Edible

Scientific Name: Fomitopsis betulina

Family: Fomitopsidaceae

Also known as: Razor Strop Fungus.

Habitat: 

Birch polypore grows primarily on birch trees, and has no look-alikes. 

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:

Stem: No real stem.

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.

Tubes and Pores: small white tubes are packed together at a density of 3 or 4 per mm

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.

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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