Turkey tail

Clive Knight has sent us pictures of turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) growing in the reserve on fallen oak.

Turkey tail is a common polypore fungus found all over the world. It is a saprophyte, growing and feeding on dead hardwood, either standing or fallen. It will very occasionally parasitise living trees but doesn’t appear to thrive on live wood.

It is a thin, leathery bracket fungus, with caps that appear in crowded, overlapping formations. Its most identifiable feature is the concentric rings of different colours, the outermost ring always being the lightest. In the reserve, turkey tail is usually black and grey, browns and oranges, but it can be very colourful indeed in the right conditions.

It is predominantly an annual, meaning that the brackets die back at the end of each fruiting season, after the spores have been released. But you might it find somewhere in the reserve almost all year round, although it is at its best and most striking in the autumn and winter.

It is not considered poisonous but, like most bracket fungi, turkey tail is far too tough to be edible. It is used in Chinese medicine, however, and there are recent reports of its use in anti-cancer drug development.

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