Fungi, along with bacteria, are nature’s “recyclers”, playing a vital role in the ecosystem by reducing complex organic matter into simple compounds which can then re-enter the food chain. These organisms, neither a true plant or true animal, fall into an intermediary position between the two classes of life.
Wet rot (Coniophora Puteana) is a saprophytic fungi, a fungi that gains its nutrition from dead or decaying organic matter. A spreading mushroom (fruiting body of a fungus) found on coniferous and deciduous wood, wet rot grows into a circular or elliptical sheet up to 16″ in diameter and less than a millimeter thick. The edges of wet rot are sterile and cottony white while the fertile, spore-bearing surface in the center is brownish or tawny becoming olive yellow with age. The center is covered in tiny dome-shaped “warts”. Rhizomorphs (fungal tissue originating at the mushroom base) can grow for several feet throughout the wood and are a conduit for moisture. Wet rot requires moisture for growth.
Wet rot also occurs on timbers in buildings, bridges, barns and other structures. In these situations, wet rot is not beneficial, as it is in the wild, but instead is destructive: discoloring, cracking and weakening the structural framing.
Wet rot is also called C. cerebella.
This wet rot was photographed on a Douglas fir (see “Douglas Fir” 12-25-2011) log along Burney Creek (Shasta County CA). A plethora of fungi have appeared after recent rains following months of drought.