As one Golding character said to the other, “I’ve got the conch!”

Today we’re looking at conch (in North America, usually “conk”) fungi. Often shelf- or hoof-shaped, hard/woody, smooth and sometimes cracking, they’re typically polyporous, not usually edible, but generally health-promoting. These perennial mushrooms stand out for sticking around even when the weather is unfavorable to the formation of more sensitive fruiting bodies.

Some of the most famous mushrooms used for medicine, like reishi, belong to this group. Folks in North America might be surprised to learn the common Red-Belted Polypore (fomitopsis pinicola) is also a potent traditional treatment for several conditions.

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– Powdered and mixed with water, the resulting paste has been used to slow bleeding from wounds

– When boiled for at least an hour, this decoction can be taken as a daily tonic to aid against digestive-system inflammation. There is some reason to believe it may also act as a preventative against cancer/tumours.

While certainly beneficial to humans in these specific ways, conks play much wider-reaching and important roles in the health of our entire ecosystem. Like many other wood-rotting fungi, the mycelia of f. pinicola are destructive to their hosts; by bringing down large conifers, they open the forest canopy and allow smaller trees to flourish. Amazingly, they are also claimed to degrade pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the surrounding environment.

Promising recent research shows a very significant connection between the presence of these mushrooms and the extension of life for worker bees, promoting colony survival through viral payload reduction.

That’s right: the same mushrooms that boost humans’ immune systems also benefit the immune systems of other animals, including bees – with the entire food web relying on the presence of pollinating insects, there can be no doubt as to the interconnectivity of all life, including these mysterious, glistening, red-belted conches.

red belted polypores

Just for fun, here are some photos of other conk fungi observed over the last few weeks in the Acadian forest.

fomitopsis pinicola?IMG_0555

 

 

First Saturday Market of 2015: Tomorrow!

Hey all!

Don’t miss the first Annapolis Royal Farmers & Traders Market of the 2015 summer season THIS SATURDAY (May 16th)!

Come by our table to get yourself a cup of lovingly-brewed, limited availability, hot Chaga* tea, and check out the other mushroom and wild-food related items we’ll have for sale.

Fantastic live music, delicious food, beautiful seedlings for your garden (courtesy of our friends at Twisted Brook Farm), and all-around good times await! See you at the Market!

 

*Wondering what in the heck Chaga is? Curious about why we’re only offering this amazing health product for a limited time? Click here!

Late-winter Woods Walk

The snow accumulation here on the East Coast this winter was nothing short of impressive – in the surrounding forests, it has taken until just recently for there to be enough traversable terrain (sans snowshoes) to go hiking in search of overwintering and early spring fungi.

(Check out these gnaw-marks on tree branches, aprox 4 feet from the ground – small forest friends, likely rabbits, were nibbling bark at this height only a couple of weeks ago!)

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As the seasons’ colours turn from the high-contrast of brilliant white, deep greens, dark browns and black, a few things pop out against the muted tones of late winter:

Pink Earth lichen (dibaeis baeomyces) is rampant in this former slate-extraction pit: as a “lichenised fungi”, it features miniscule fruiting bodies resembling the stalked mushrooms we tend to see in the fall.

Dibaeis baeomyces pink earth lichen

Orange Jelly emerge, brain-like, from decaying wood.

orange jelly

In this shot, you can see it snacking on the same trunk as some gorgeous Green Stain (chlorociboria aeruginascens) mycelia.

green stain and orange jelly

Black Jelly Roll is also prevalent. Here, it co-occurs with what just might be panellus stipticus – we’ll have to return after sundown to see if it bears the exceptionally cool trait of luminescence (glowing in the dark) to confirm the ID!

black jelly and panellus

It’s fascinating to see the combinations of fungi, moss, and lichen inhabiting the same host trees, in various stages of life, decline, and decay. Come back soon for some more pictures and a post about the numerous polypores, specifically conk fungi, observed on this outing.

Mushroom logs – the gift that keeps on giving!

Hi folks!

It feels like springtime may finally be arriving in Nova Scotia, and that means it’s time to start new shiitake logs! We’ve cut the logs and will be inoculating them later this week with sawdust spawn. Check back next week for photos — until then, enjoy this fun fungi clip from The Big Bang Theory! Click HERE to view.

**NB: Drop us an email or come visit us at the Annapolis Royal Market (starting May 16th) to inquire about sharing one of these magical gifts with the special someone in your life!