Mystery fungus with a leathery surface
Iwas sent a few photos of a large fungus growing out of a tree in someone’s garden in Ashford last month. They were fascinated by it and wanted to know what it is. Sometimes the clue with identifying fungi is what tree or plant it is growing out of. In this case the tree is a silver birch and the fungus is a birch polypore. The fungus is very distinctive and another name for it is the razor strop fungus, as the top surface is very tough and leathery. Strips of the upper surface of the fungus were used like a strap, which was usually leather, for sharpening razors. The fungus had the cap folding over to give a distinctive smooth rim around the pore surface. The feel of the fungus suggests polystyrene and it was used in old times for stuffing as it was light and also widely available. The fungus itself is an annual and so never lives for more than one season. The odour is strong and is quite pleasant and it is not poisonous and not particularly rare. However, the fungus is there to feed on dead or decaying wood and the silver birch tree itself might be starting to deteriorate in the heart of the trunk due to old age.
For more information contact Owen Leyshon, Romney Marsh Countryside Project, telephone 01797 367934 or log on to www.rmcp.co.uk
A birch polypore