January 9, 2023
Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is the Wrinkled Crust (Phlebia radiata). I first found this mushroom up in Manitou on 12/8/2022, and when I returned last week it’s appearance was unchanged. A testament to the resilience of this gelatinous mushroom and it’s ability to withstand winter elements. However, when I returned today there was a noticeable difference in size and texture so we’ll get into all that and even touch on the tree it’s digesting.
The above picture was taken last week after some rain. It should be noted the mushroom is growing on the knob of a broken branch and normally grows flat on the tree. Now look at the below picture which was taken today after several days without precipitation. The texture of the mushroom is markedly different when saturated as the veiny, groovy mushroom projects a few millimeters off the tree’s bark. When dehydrated, those gelatinous folds and wrinkles are hardly recognizable as the mushroom plasters back to the bark. With more rain, it will rehydrate, and this eb and flow will continue for the life of the mushroom. I don’t know how long these gelatinous fruiting bodies (which range up and down the twenty foot tall dead tree) will persist through the winter – nor could I find anything about it online – but they’ve been there a month so I’ll just continue to keep an eye on them.
The etymology of Phlebia was addressed last week (it means “veiny”), and there don’t seem to be any purported medicinal properties, so instead let’s look at the tree from which it grows. P. radiata is saprobic, growing from the dead wood of hardwoods or conifers, and this particular specimen had found a nice, young yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). When I learned about this tree, I learned it as a yellow birch (I call the other local birches by colors too – black birch, grey birch, and white birch), but some folks call this a swamp birch which gives you a clue as to where it likes to grow and may help you remember it. The most distinctive feature of this tree is the bark on mature trees.
This birch has incredibly peely, yellowish-grey bark. If you can tell from the background, and from the swampy pseudonym, it also likes to grow in wetlands or near rivers. What can make the identification tough is that the bark on younger trees – like the tree which our Phlebia was digesting – doesn’t peel at nearly the same magnitude. You can even see that lack of peelage on the younger limbs in the photo above.
Circling back to the mushroom, P. radiata is known to grow year-round, but it’s iNaturalist observations peak October through December and are almost non-existent in the other months. The distribution chart below suggests that it grows throughout temperate forests in the northern hemisphere. The color ranges from orange to pink but usually tends to be more translucent. or lighter in color, when it’s young.
P. radiata doesn’t produces a stipe, gills, nor pores like other mushrooms we look at. It grows entirely resupinate (flat) on whichever medium the fungus digests, and it releases white spores from all parts of the mushroom. Even more interestingly, unlike polypores that grow parallel with the ground and rely on gravity to help pull out spores (geotropism), this mushroom is perfectly fine growing perpendicular with the ground. A curious trait I’ll let us mull over for the rest of the week.
Hey – have an excellent week,
1) Kuo, M. (2008, December). Phlebia radiata. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/phlebia_radiata.html