Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Fomes fomentarius - Tinder Polypore

Family: Polyporaceae [E-flora]

Synonyms and Alternate Names

"After felling or falling of a tree, the living cells die some time later. The active defense systems do not function any longer. Some fungi that are already present in the stem can continue degradation by their now saprobic way of life, e.g., Fomes fomentarius." [Schmidt WTF]

"Not all fungi require insects to carry them into a tree. Spores of tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius), also called hoof fungus and touchwood, enter wounds in the bark of broadleaved trees and the fungus grows inside the tree. It hollows out the trunk until this splits and the branches fall. The fungus produces fruiting bodies in the form of brackets that project from the sides of the trunk. These have a leathery texture. In the past dentists used the fungus to clean and dry tooth cavities prior to filling them, and since Roman times it has been used to cauterize wounds. After treatment, the material of the fruiting bodies becomes highly flammable and is easily ignited by a spark from a flint; it is the original tinder fungus." [Allaby TF]

"The best commercial tinder of Northern Europe was always made from the shelf-fungus known to mycologists as the fomes fornentarius, a species that must not be confused with the mis-named fomes igniarius. Indeed, today we know that this use of the fomes fomentarius for tinder goes back far. It has been found in the human settlements at Maglemose, on the island of Seeland in Denmark, in conjunction with flint and the remains of pyrites.1 It has been found repeatedly in the Danish peat bogs of the same era. The Maglemose finds go back to the oldest stone age in Denmark, c. 6,000 B.C. The final ice age had drawn to a close c. 12,000 B.C., and after an interval of tundra ecology, a forest growth succeeded, including the birch trees with which invariably the early specimens of fomes fomentarius have been associated. The making of tinder from this particular fungus may well be the oldest surviving industry with a continuous history in northern Europe." [RussMush1]

"Tinder has a long history dating back at least to the 8th millennium BC. Punk or touchwood, rotten wood caused by the bracket fungus Fomes fomentarius (tinder fungus), etc. has been found at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr, Yorkshire; the Neolithic 'iceman' from the Hauslabjoch also carried a portion of tinder fungus in his pouch." [Wickens, EB]

"The ‘Tyrolean ice-man’, who died 5000 years ago on an alpine glacier, carried bits of the medicinal polypore Piptoporus betulinus on a leather thong and tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) in his girdle bag (Peitner et al, 1998)." [A.B. Cunningham]

"A leather pouch attached to a long leather belt worn around the waist and under the coat was in a position like none other ever seen from prehistory. The contents could be accessed through an 8 cm gap along the top seam or laced shut. The pouch contained three flint blades of different types, a piece of hollow goat or sheep bone, and the rest of the small space filled with a wad of tinder bracket, Fomes fomentarius, a few hairs, and traces of pyrite. By keeping the pouch inside his coat and next to the skin, Otzi had found an effective way to keep his kindling dry." [Birx EoA]

"Polyporus fomentarius (L.) Fr. [Fomes fomentarius (L.) Fr.,] is hoof-shaped, smoky in color, or gray, and of various shades of dull brown. It is strongly zoned and sulcate, marking off each year's growth. The margin is thick and blunt, and the tube surface concave, the tubes having quite large mouths so that they can be readily seen, the color when mature being reddish brown. Sections of the plant show that the tubes are very long, the different years' growth not being marked off so distinctly as in P. applanatus and leucophceus. The plant grows on birch, beech, maple, etc. The inner portion was once used as tinder." [Atkinson SAF]

Habitat/Range: "circumboreal on birch, extending south to North Africa on beech" [MPFT] "on dead or living hardwood trees, including birch, beech, maple and poplar, (Phillips), perennial, on living and dead hardwoods, especially Betula (birch) and Alnus (alder), causing white mottled heartrot of living hardwoods, continuing to fruit on dead and fallen trees, (Gilbertson), on dead hardwoods or wounds in living trees, including maple, birch, beech, hickory, poplar, and cherry, (Lincoff(2)), fruiting all season (Miller), spores produced in fall (Bacon)" [E-flora]

Similar Species

Piptoporus betulinus; "This species causes a brown cubical rot of the sapwood of dead birch. It is restricted to birch. The short-stalked or sessile fruiting bodies are distinctive. Fomes fomentarius is also a common perennial polypore on birch, producing hoof-shaped fruiting bodies that become longer with age. These two common fungi on birch are easily identified." [MOFMUS Huffman]

"Phellinus igniarius similar in color but may be shelf-like, old caps often black and cracked, has often stratified tube layers that are often stuffed when old with white mycelial threads showing as streaks or flecks when cut open, and spores are 5-7 x 4-6 microns long, (Arora), Phellinus igniarius has hard dark brown flesh, (Breitenbach), Phellinus igniarius has different reaction to KOH; Phellinus species are more like cork than wood and usually have setae (Lincoff(2)); Fomitopsis species have whitish flesh (Lincoff(2)), Fomitopsis pinicola will melt if a match is held to cap surface, whereas Fomes fomentarius will char, (Breitenbach)" [E-flora]

Edibility: "no (Phillips)" [E-flora]

Other Uses

Medicinal Use

"Fomes fomentarius (L.: Fr.) Fr. was used against kidney disease. It was soaked in alcohol or used with other medicines." [Watling TM 1]


"A polysaccharide derived from the basidiomycete Fomes fomentarium (designated BAS-F) induced systemic resistance in tobacco to TMV [79]." {tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)} [Gnanamanickam BCCD]

"The ‘tinder fungus’ Fomes fomentarius, which grows on both beech and birch trees, gives a deep red colour in alkali. This is associated with the presence of fomentariol (7.31), a purpurogallin type of oxidation product of trihydroxycinnamyl alcohol." [ChemofFungi]


Styptic [MM Hobbs]

"The occurrence of hypocholestrolemic activity in fungi is not necessarily limited to edible species. Jiu (1966) also reported activity in Fomes fomentarius (Polyporus fomentarius) as well as in other plants that were not fungi." [Chang BCEM]

Fungicolous fungi

"Those fungicolous fungi often cover the surface of the perennial carpophores without harming the host (Rudakov 1981)." [BOF Elsevier] Orbilia inflatula - Helfer 1991 [BOF Elsevier]

Uses of other Sp.

Journals of Interest


Page last modified on Friday, May 3, 2019 11:24 PM