Tinder fungus - First of our Friday fungi...
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
Hello and welcome again to our blog.
Last March during lockdown we decided to post weekly tree identification videos of trees you can find in Linn Park. We loved researching trees and sharing our findings with you so we thought we'd do it again but with fungus this time. We tend to associate mushrooms or the fruit of the fungus with Autumn but they can be found all year round if you look carefully.
What we see is the 'fruit' of the fungus. The main body of the fungus is made up of fine threads (hyphae) that group together to make a mycelium. Most of the time the mycelium is hidden from view because it is growing through the soil or under fallen logs or decaying plant and animal remains. The fungus breaks down the dead remains and releases simple food products that it can absorb through the hyphae that make up its mycelium. This is how the fungus gets food for growth.
The fruit bodies are the fruits of the fungus - just like pears are the fruit on a pear tree.
Fruit bodies come in lots of different shapes, colours and sizes. The fruit of the Tinder fungus looks a little bit like a horse's hoof with a very hard shell and soft underside.
Tinder fungus can also be known as Horses Hoof fungus and it's Latin name is Fomes Fomentarius which means 'used for tinder'. Tinder fungus is found on birch trees in Scotland and occasionally beech trees in the south of the UK.
Tinder fungus belongs to the Polyporaceae family. It's a bracket fungus which means it grows out of trees that are dead, standing or lying on the ground. Tinder fungus fruiting bodies only appear once the tree it is growing on has died. Its incredible woody, tough fungi can grow up to 40cm wide and 20ch deep. Each curved line on the top of the fungus represents a year of its life, they can live up to the age of 22! The fungus will die when it has broken down the deadwood and removed all the nutrients it can from it.
As I mentioned we've used this fungus during our Forest School sessions. It was very tough and tricky to cut open so we ended up having to use a Billhook to split it open to have a closer look inside. Once inside you can see all the tiny tubes through which the spores will travel. The 'tinder' or Amadou is the fluffy looking part that's coincidentally shaped like a mushroom, we gave lighting it with a flint and steel a go but it was much more difficult than we thought. I've later learned that it needs to be prepared in a certain way, hopefully we can try it again when we get back into the woods.
The use of Tinder fungus to light fire dates back to over 5000 years ago. The body of the 'Iceman' found preserved in a glacier in the Alps in 1991, was accompanied by a pouch containing flint and a piece of dried tinder fungus, indicating that it played an important role then in people's use of fire.
The fungus has also long been known to have important healing properties, and in 400 BC Hippocrates referred to it as being used as an anti-inflammatory. Recent studies have found that it has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, thereby confirming its age-old use.
Happy fungus finding
Until next week,
Referenced with thanks