Identifying fungi

This is a picture  of a bracket fungus on an oak tree in the park. The mycelium, which is the main part of the fungus, is growing invisibly inside the tree. This beautiful outgrowth is the fruiting body, part of the fungus’s reproductive system.

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Most of the fungi that are called brackets live in and on the heartwood of a tree, which slowly decays. The living parts of a tree, the xylem and phloem, that transport its food and water between leaves and roots, are usually unaffected. Eventually, the heartwood will rot away and parts of the tree will become hollow but, despite this, the tree can continue to thrive.

This fungus belongs, we think, in the genus Ganoderma.  We were waiting for it to mature so that we could identify the species properly; as it aged, the top began to go brown and the edges to lift. Last year, somebody knocked the bracket off the tree before it reached the identifiable stage – and it happened again this year.

People are often very suspicious of fungi; their reputation is one of poison and decay. They are thought of as unpleasant in some way and people are inclined to destroy their fruiting bodies. But fungi, which are omnipresent, are an essential part of the park’s ecosystem and deserve a little more respect. Let’s hope that next year this fungus matures sufficiently for us to put a name to it.

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bracket fungus on oak

Photographs by SMH and Ian B

More fungi:

fungus- coprinellus

 

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