Bracket fungi, widely known as polypore or shelf fungi, are a group of fungi that grow on the trunks of dead, dying and sometimes living trees.

Advertisement

They are known for producing woody, bracket-shaped fruiting bodies and can be found throughout the UK, all year round.

Bracket fungi generally consume the wood of host trees, but some can grow in the soil.

There are more than 1,000 described species of bracket fungi worldwide. Here we take a look at some of the most common UK species, including birch polypore, chicken of the woods and turkey tail.

As always, care should be taken if handling fungi, and anyone wishing to consume edible bracket fungi should only do so if they are 100% sure that they have correctly identified the species.

Looking to learn more about Britain's incredible wildlife? Check out BBC Countryfile Magazine's guides to nuts and seeds, geese species and British deer.

Chicken of the woods on a tree trunk
Chicken of the woods, also known as sulphur shelf mushroom, is one of the easiest bracket fungi to identify thanks to its bright sulphur colours/Credit: Getty

Bracket fungi UK - six common species

Turkey tail, Trametes versicolor

Turkey tail fungi on tree trunk
Turkey tail is found mostly on fallen broadleaf trees/Credit: Getty

A fungus producing multiple fan-shaped brackets, turkey tail is amongst the most common bracket fungi found in the UK . Its Latin genus name roughly translates as ‘several colours’ as, rather like Saturn’s rings, or indeed a turkey’s tail, the brackets have a concentric ringed pattern.

Found on: Mostly on fallen broadleaf trees, occasionally dead conifer
Is turkey tail edible? Tough – inedible

Want to know more about Britain's fantastic fungi?

The UK's woods, riverbanks and meadows are home to roughly 15,000 species of wild mushrooms. Find out how to identify the most common species found in Britain, plus essential safety tips on which mushrooms are edible or poisonous in BBC Countryfile Magazine's British fungi guide.
British forest mushroom guide - king boletus

Birch polypore, Piptoporus betulinus

Close-up of birch polypore on a tree trunk
Birch polypore fungi grows on dead or dying birch trees/Credit: Getty

Birch polypore is a round to hoof-shaped fungus, light brown to grey on top with mottled white cracks and sometimes white margin. The underside is porous and white.

Otzi, the 5300-year-old Alpine ‘Iceman’ carried pieces of the mushroom, which he may have used to help expel whipworms.

Found on: Dead or dying birches
Is birch polypore edible? Not eaten, sometimes dried for tea


Ganoderma

Artist's bracket fungi on a tree trunk
The white underside of artist's bracket fungus bruises when touched/Credit: Getty

The Ganoderma species are a collection of hard, woody, parasitic hoof-shaped bracket fungus. When young, the pores on the underside of the Ganoderma applanatum or artists’ bracket can turn permanently from white to brown. The lacquered bracket, Ganoderma lucidium, is used in Chinese medicine and may be beneficial alongside conventional cancer treatments.

Found on: Deciduous trees
Are Ganoderma species edible? Too woody to consume


Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus

Chicken of the woods, Chicken of the Woods on a tree trunk by a lake
Chicken of the woods is edible – care should be taken when identifying any fungi/Credit: Getty

A mildly parasitic bracket fungus, found from late spring to early autumn. The top is sulphur yellow, the flesh is ivory white and the porous underside is a brilliant yellow before fading to white as the mushroom goes over.

Found on: Living or dead oak, cherry, chestnut and yew trees.
Is chicken of the woods edible? Edible and good. Avoid those growing on yew trees.


Dryad’s saddle, Cerioporus squamosus

Dryads saddle fungi on a tree trunk
Dryad’s saddle grows on the trunks of broadleaf trees/Credit: Getty

A very common stemmed bracket fungus found from spring until late summer. Sometimes called pheasant’s back because the brown scales on top give the appearance of a pheasant’s plumage.

Found on: Broadleaf trees
Is dryad's saddle edible? Technically edible but can be tough


Beefsteak, Fistulina hepatica

Beefsteak fungi on a tree trunk
Beefsteak fungi grow on dead or dying oaks/Credit: Getty

The aptly named beefsteak fungus is a red to reddish brown, polypore, bracket fungus growing up to 30cm/1ft across. When cut, it ‘bleeds’ a red blood-like liquid. The flesh is striated or mottled, much like a hunk of meat.

Advertisement

Found on: Dead or dying oaks, occasionally chestnut trees
Is beefsteak fungus edible? Edible but not to everyone’s taste.

Authors

Dave Hamilton is an author, freelance writer, tutor, photographer, forager and explorer of historic sites and natural places.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement