Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Fomitopsis Sp. - Polypore

Family: Fomitopsidaceae [E-flora]

Local Species;

Fomitopsis cajanderi

Habitat / Range

"perennial, on dead conifers, but also on madrone and various fruit trees, (Arora), on dead wood of numerous genera of conifers, particularly common on Douglas fir, rarely on hardwoods including Populus tremuloides, Betula, Prunus, causes a brown cubical rot of dead conifers, rarely of hardwoods, plays a major role in carbon and nutrient recycling, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]

Similar Species

"Fomitopsis rosea is generally hoof-shaped and bracket-like as opposed to shelf-like to applanate for F. cajanderi, and F. rosea has straight spores 2-2.5 microns wide, (Gilbertson). "F. rosea is practically identical, but has paler (silvery-pink to pale rose) flesh, slightly broader, cylindric (not curved) spores, and a cap surface that is sometimes incrusted slightly in older specimens", (Arora)." [E-flora]

"Other decay fungi that are not directly lethal may change the fitness of infected trees by increasing the probability of breakage. In young forests, Fomitopsis cajanderi infects Douglas-firs that suffer broken tops from snow, ice, or wind damage. It causes a central column of brown-rot decay. Later windstorms are much more likely to break these decayed trees than adjacent sound trees. Interestingly, in old forests Fomitopsis officinalis instead of F. cajanderi infects trees with broken tops or lost limbs." [Dighton TFC]

Fomitopsis officinalis


"Agarikon is a rare, old-growth species of bracket fungus that grows high in the canopy of old Douglas-fir trees in BC (Taylor 2013)." [E-flora]

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Summary: "features include chalky white hoof-shaped to columnar fruitbodies on conifers, chalky white flesh, crumbly consistency, and extremely bitter taste; the source of agaricin which has been used since antiquity for fever and other complaints, also said to have purgative and antiperspirant properties; with Phaeolus schweinitzii and Porodaedalea pini said to be one of the three major destroyers of standing coniferous timber in the West of North America; found in BC, WA, OR, ID, also AB, ON, AK, AZ, CA, CO, MI, MT, NM, NV, SD, WI" [E-flora]

Habitat / Range

"perennial, single or several on living or dead conifers, (Arora), single on living conifers, continuing decay and fruiting on dead trees and stumps, especially on old growth western larch and Douglas-fir, but also on Pinus (pine), Picea (spruce), Abies (fir), and Tsuga (hemlock), causing brown cubical heartrot of living conifers, commonly called brown trunk rot, thick white mycelial felts develop in shrinkage cracks, (Gilbertson)" [E-flora]

"FOMITOPSIS OFFICINALIS The Greek physician Dioscorides included the larch polypore (Fomitopsis officinalis) in his De Materia Medica, published approximately 65 CE. Known then as Agaricum or Agarikon, and later as the quinine conk or brown trunk rot, it was used as a treatment for “consumption,” a disease now known as tuberculosis. The Agarikon was a staple of pharmacology until at least the 18th century, when it fell into obscurity. For hundreds of years, the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia and other coastal indigenous peoples have used shelf polypore fungi medicinally. The Haida gave Fomitopsis officinalis a name that translates into “ghost bread” or “tree biscuit.” Shelf fungi were also used for spiritual practices and have been found in shaman’s graves. The Haida even personified bracket fungus as “Fungus Man” in their mythology." [HealingMushrooms]

"The upper surface is zoned, white when fresh but drying to dark gray or light brown in old specimens; a chalky coating, which rubs off as a white powder, may be present. (The powder is used by the Cree Indians as a styptic to stop bleeding.) The lower surface is white when fresh, drying to light brown, and the pores are relatively small and uniform in outline. The context is white or gray, relatively soft when young, then toughening with age. The bitter taste of the sporophore context and mycelial mats has given this fungus the common name “quinine fungus.” Recent tests demonstrate that a specially prepared extract from Fomitopsis officinalis is highly selective against viruses. A National Institutes of Health screening program tests mushroom extracts against viruses that could be weaponized, including the viruses causing yellow fever, dengue, SARS, respiratory viruses, and pox viruses. Several of the Fomitopsis officinalis samples showed activity for reducing infection from vaccinia and cowpox, both smallpox viruses. While several strains of extract generated strong anti-pox activity, other strains were less potent." [HealingMushrooms]

Medicinal Use

"The mycelial mats produced by Fomitopsis officinalis in decayed wood were once used by American lumberjacks to stop bleeding caused by ax wounds (Gilbertson 1980), and the agaric acid obtained from the fruiting bodies of this mushroom has been used as a purgative." [EPMW Hall] "...the Ahnishinaubeg employed Fomitopsis officinalis as a powerful purgative, especially in cases where poisoning was suspected. However, only very small doses were prescribed, as too much was thought to cause paralysis. They also used Fomes fomentarius as a cauterizer and styptic..." [MMHobbs]


"The Greek physician, Dioscorides described the use of an infusion that he called Agaricium, which was obtained from the larch polypore, Fomitopsis (Polyporus) officinalis, and was used for the treatment of consumption (tuberculosis). This biological activity has been attributed to the presence of agaricic or laricic acid [a-cetylcitric acid (1.6)]." [ChemofFungi] "One conk-forming wood decomposer, Laricifomes (Fomitopsis) officinalis, registered a startling 55% fat content (Sawada, 1965), higher than that of eggs (Kreula et al., 1976)." [Dighton TFC]

Fomitopsis pinicola

Habitat / Range

"perennial, "solitary or in groups on dead trees, logs, and stumps or rarely on living trees", (Arora), on "dead conifers and occasionally causing heartrot of living conifers, a major heartrot fungus in black cherry", "also occasionally on aspen and birch", causes brown cubical rot of living and dead conifers and hardwoods, conspicuous "white mycelial felts develop in shrinkage cracks of the decayed wood", (Gilbertson), buttons forming in spring, but conks present all year round, (Miller), spores produced in fall (Bacon)" [E-flora]

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Edibility no (Arora) [E-flora]

"Another genetic system referred to as somatic or vegetative incompatibility restricts plasmogamy between genetically different heterokaryotic dikaryons. In 1929, Fomitopsis pinicola was the first basidiomycete to be studied by means of somatic incompatibility (cf. Högberg et al. 1999). The somatic incompatibility system can be defined as the rejection of nonself mycelia following hyphal anastomosis (Worrall 1997), thus assuring the isolation of unrelated individuals in nature. Cultures of the same genotype form a common mycelium, while cultures ofdifferent genotypes of a species or ofdifferent species separatethemselves by a demarcation zone. Two isolates are incompatible if they carry different alleles at one or more vic loci. Self/nonself recognition is normally related to genetic uniqueness (Hansen and Hamelin 1999). Thus, there is a correspondence between the delimitation of genets by DNA fingerprints and vegetative compatibility tests." [Schmidt WTF]

"Fomitopsis pinicola (Sw.) P. Karst. Belonging to family Fomitopsidaceae causes a diseases known as red-belted fungus. Several other fungi attacks the medicinal plants, like Pythium pinosurn causes pythium rhizome rot, Septoria digitalis causing leaf spot, little leaf disease by Phywphthora cinnamomi Rands (Pythiaceae), etc." [Shah TPP]

"Fomitopsis pinicola causes a brown-rot primarily in conifers, but occasionally in hardwoods, especially black cherry. It is our most common conk and a major player in the recycling of wood into soil. While normally forming a woody, rounded to shelflike fruitbody, it also can grow as a simple layer of tubes on the underside of logs. The surface of the cap is usually banded with orange, reddish orange, or grayish to black, and has a whitish rounded edge. The interior is woody and fibrous, with multiple tube layers. The pores are very small and white, yellowish when bruised. When growing shelf-like, Heterobasidion annosum can appear rather similar, but lacks reddish colors." [Trudell MPNW]


"Alachlor (2-chloro-N-(2,6-diethylphenyl)-N-(methoxymethyl)-acetamide) and the related acetanilide herbicides Metalochlor and Propachlor, which are considered to be potential carcinogens, are transformed by white rot fungi; Ceriporiopsis subvermispora, Phlebia tremellosa, and P. chrysosporium degraded Alachlor, after 122 days of incubation, by 14, 12, and 6.3%, respectively (Ferrey et al., 1994). Fomitopsis pimicola, a brown rot fungus, did not break down Alachlor under these conditions." [Gadd FB]

"There have been reports on degradation of other types of xenohiotic compounds by brown rot fungi, often with relatively little or no activity by the brown rot fungi compared with, for example, white rot fungi. For example, the brown rot fungus Fomitopsis pinicola displayed no mineralization ability when grown with the chlorinated, aromatic herbicide alachlor [2-chloro-N-(2,6-diethylphenyl)-N- (methoxymethyl)-acetamide] in the presence of malt extract and wood chips (Ferrey et al. 1994). However, F. pinicoZa was able to degrade alachlor, producing metabolites that indicated use of a different degradation pathway than that of the white rot fungi used in the same study." [Esser IA]

"Kang et al. (2002) reported the ability of Fomitopsis to solubilize tri-calcium phosphate." [Alloway TPFB]

"The dead and pulverized macrofungus Fomitopsis carnea displays an excellent uptake potential for all cationic dyes, and the affinity of sorbent varies with the dye (Mittal and Gupta, 1996)." [Mycorem Singh]

"Several fungi, identified as members of the genus Fomitopsis, were able to remove up to 53% of added naphthalene, but only one strain was able to remove naphthalene, fluorene, chyrsene, and benzo[a]pyrene when tested as a mixture." [Esser IA]

Parasitic Species

"Hypomyces aurantius (Persoon) Fuckel The species of Hypomyces are ascomycetes that form small flask-shaped fruitbodies, often on other mushroom-fungi, although some species grow on other substrates. The name Hypomyces is used in cases where sexual reproductive structures are produced by the fungus. However, many species reproduce asexually as well and then receive different names. Hypomyces aurantius is usually found on polypores but also can occur on decaying wood and litter. When growing on a polypore, it typically develops over the pore surface as large numbers of spherical orange-yellow flasks that develop from a yellow felt-like covering. It is most commonly found in spring, often on decaying conks of Fomitopsis pinicola." [Trudell MPNW]

Journals of Interest

Volatiles of bracket fungi, Fomitopsis pinicola and Fomes fomentarius and their function as insect attractants, J. Faldt, M. Jonsell, G. Norlander and A.-K Burg-Karlson, J. Chem. Ecol., 1999, 25, 567.

"For instance, under the heading of Agaricum, a white fungus that grew on trees was taken in a dose of four obole (4.7 gram), crushed in oxymel (vinegar and honey) (Jones VII, 213). A similar species which was of two kinds (male and female) growing in Gaul was said to be weaker, tasting at first sweet and then bitter. These characteristics are similar to those of Fomitopsis officinalis, a likely suspect, given its singular popularity in the ancient world. As can be seen in Table 1 below, the Agaricum most definitely qualifies as a panacea! If even a fraction of the activity ascribed to it is true, modern science may find a fruitful area of research. Perhaps this fungi is a forerunner of the modern adaptogen, an herb which is reported to support adrenal function, build endurance, counteract the deleterious effects of stress, regulate body processes (such as blood sugar), calm the nerves, balance the hormones, and strengthen the immune system (Brekhman, 1980; Farnsworth et al, 1985)." [MMHobbs]

"Fomitopsis officinalis (from the Greek, fomes = tinder, officinalis = pharmaceutical) is also known as the quinine fungus, and although it does not contain quinine (an antimalarial compound), according to Stamets, it does contain “significant antiviral and antibacterial effects against tuberculosis and E. coli.” .... The English herbalist John Gerard (1545-1611 or 1612) recommended “agaricke” as a treatment for a wide variety of ailments, including lung conditions. The key pharmaceutical compound in F. officinalis is agaricin (agaric acid), which in 1901 was recommended by the American Medical Association for treating night sweats. F. officinalis was also an ingredient in Warburg’s Tincture, a concoction of powdered F. officinalis, quinine, aloe, and spices, and was used to treat malaria and a variety of other ailments in Europe and the United States until the early 1900s. A century later, the mushroom is getting another look. Scott Franzblau, director of research at the University of Illinois Institute for Tuberculosis Research, suggests F. officinalis may “possibly contain novel anti-TB active compounds” and is studying its effects on tubercle growth." [Myco Bone]


Page last modified on Monday, May 6, 2019 11:33 PM