Red-Belted Bracket Fungi

2012 CAMP SERIES: SECTION 4

Many bracket fungi form roughly semicircular shelves called “conks” on dead or living trees. I believe the pictured specimens are red-belted (or banded) polypore, though I am by no means an authority on shelf fungi. The red-belted bracket fungi, Fomitopsis pinicola, are one of the most widely distributed varieties of shelf fungi in North America, although they are rare in south-east USA. They are also one of the most prominent wood decayers in the coniferous forests where they reside. As shown in most of the photos, they excrete droplets of clear liquid from pores on the sides and bottom of the fruiting body. I was not able to find any further information on this fluid other than it being referred to as “metabolic exudate.”

These bracket fungi were discovered on a fallen log, while on a camping trip in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The previous four blog posts include other discoveries in this same area. In fact, the dog vomit slime mold featured in one of those articles was only 50 feet from these shelf fungi.

Shortly after posting this piece, I came across another posting within the WordPress community by the ENVB 222 Bracket Fungus Group, entitled Bracket Fungi. This article contains a more in depth look into shelf fungi, including some interesting findings related to the red-banded bracket fungi.

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13 Responses to Red-Belted Bracket Fungi

  1. Extremely interesting. I’ve never noticed them “sweating” like that. I’ll have to take a closer look next time I see one.

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  2. Excellent photographs, Rick. Very nice captures of a fascinating phenomenon.

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  3. Finn Holding says:

    Do the droplets drop? I’m wondering if they are a means of disseminating spores. Species of the Coprinus genus sensesce and form a black inky liquid which drops to the ground carrying the spores, so I wonder if this is an analogous mechanism for reproduction.

    If not, I guess it could be a means of excreting toxic metabolites. Fungi have some very exotic biochemistry which produces compounds called ‘secondary metabolites’ and as fsar as I know no one knows why these compounds are made but they may be a means of sequestering toxic byproducts of metabolism. And some some of them are highly toxic – to humans at least – e.g. the Amanita genus.

    It would be interesting to analyse one of those drops and see what’s in it. Maybe discover a new antibiotic…

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  4. Bruce Hagen says:

    Rick, great narrative. I’ve seen many dead and fallen trees with red belt fungus conks in the coniferous forests throughout California. It’s primarily an organism that exploits dead material (saphrophytic), but can decay the heart wood of living trees. I suspect that the droplets of moisture are primarily water from the region of wood that is being colonized by the fungus. Trees often respond to wounding and pathogen invasion by increasing the moisture level in the affected area. This serves to increase resistant to decay. Perhaps this is a strategy to reduce water content, which would allow the pathogen to spread?

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    • Finn Holding says:

      That’s a really interesting idea and would show an adaptation to living on a live tree. Although the photographs here show the conks also exude the drops when they’re growing on dead wood, but if there is sufficient moisture in the dead wood I guess the same mechanism may still be used to dissipate extraneous water.

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  7. Kassandra Chapman says:

    Could you identify a few mushrooms, I think it may be this kind but not sure ?

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