Although I already discussed dye polypores (Phaeolus schweinitzii) in a previous post (“Dye Polypore” on 10-30-2011), I was fascinated by this specimen growing along the Hatton-Hiouchi Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (Del Norte County CA). This fungus grows gradually often engulfing pine needles, plants, twigs and other debris as it grows.
Dye polypores grow on dead and living conifers. Those on living trees usually are on the ground, originate from the tree roots, consist of several tiered caps and persist all year. The mycelium attacks the tree’s roots and heartwood causing a serious, carbonizing decay called “brown rot” of roots and butt. Eventually the tree weakens and becomes a windfall. Dye polypores growing on coniferous slash are more shelf-like.
Because dye polypore color and texture change throughout the life of the plant identification can be confusing. The cap is circular to fan shaped. When young this fungus is soft and spongy. With age it becomes tough and corky. When dry, dye ploypores become rigid and brittle. The surface is covered with dense woolly or felty hairs becoming smoother with age. The color is orange to yellow or greenish becoming dark brown to black with age. Often the cap is concentrically zoned with several colors.
This mushroom is not edible because of its tough texture and may even be poisonous.