Turkeytail – Multi-Coloured Fungi
It’s such a boost of positive energy to get out in the woods for a walk just now. This week on a wander I stumbled upon several gorgeous Turkeytail fungi’s so thought it would be a good one to share with you. It is very common and abundant all year round. But is especially visible just now as the broadleaf trees are bare and a lot of ground growth has died back so it’s really out there on show!
The shape, colours and patterns of Turkeytail as I’m sure you can imagine - resemble a Turkeys fan like tail feathers! Also in China it is known as the Cloud Fungus!
It is Saprobic so that’s a wood rotting fungus which colonizes its host, gaining and distributing nutrients and decomposing of the rotting wood. It is a Bracket Fungi so we’ll find it on standing or fallen down deadwoods, tree stumps or damaged trees. It’s a Polypore Bracket so has lots of tiny pore holes on its underside.
It’s wonderful scientific name is ‘Trametes versicolor’ - meaning ‘thin in sections’ and ‘of several colours’ which makes sense. It comes in a stunning array of coloured layers which can be red, yellow, green, blue, brown, grey or black or a mixture of these colours. It is also known as Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor, and it even used to be known as the Many Zoned Polypore!
Check out this week’s video to see one of the Turkeytails I found in Linn Park and have a look at the identification traits below for tips on spotting it. It may be common and easy to see but you will need to use your detective skills to confirm if it is definitely a true Turkeytail or a beautiful lookalike!
· Grows in tiered semi-circular discs that are only about 1-3mm thick and up to 10cm wide. · · · They may overlap each other to form much larger fruiting areas.
· The outside edge is always a pale white/cream.
· Texture of cap surface – Fuzzy and velvety to the touch with fine hairs you can see with a magnifying glass. The texture changes as colour changes.
· Underside is white/crème/grey and is covered in lots of tiny shallow pores – this is where the fungi’s spores are produced and will drop down from. Use a magnifying glass to see them!
· Where – found on dead/damaged hardwood deciduous trees like Oak or Beech.
Question - is it a true Turkey Tail or a false Turkey tail?
There are lots of other bracket fungi species that are similar to Turkeytail. There are also Crust Fungi that look like it too! Use this test to check if true turkey tail is what you’ve found!
? Can you see several distinctly different colour zones in the layers on the cap?
? Does the top surface feel fuzzy/velvety and change texture between the coloured layers?
? Are the new mushrooms thin and flexible?
? Is it on a hardwood broadleaf tree (one that loses its leaves) and not a conifer (which are mostly evergreens)?
? THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION - is the underneath white/grey with lots of tiny pore holes when seen magnified? (3-8 pore holes per mm). Bring a magnifying glass to check!
If the answers are yes to these questions then you have found true Turkeytail! – and if not it’s an equally interesting lookie-likie!
A similar bracket fungi I see is Purplepore Bracket Fungus. See the photos below for a comparison. This one is on its favoured deadwood - a conifer tree. The cap feels bumpy to the touch, the colours are paler and more similar to each other and when I looked underneath it had tooth like pores. When this fungi was younger it would have been more purple, now it’s stained green with Algae. Still another beautiful fungi to have a look out for!
I also keep finding all different kinds of Crust Fungi which at certain stages in their development look really like Turkey Tail, whilst at other times they are nothing like it! Some crust fungi have even been called False Turkey Tails. Looking underneath the fungi is the key way to check if it’s Turkey tail or not. For example on these fungi below I could see that the underneath was smooth and shiny and an orange colour so not Turkey Tail!
Value to Wildlife
Bracket Fungi tend to last longer than others – Turkey Tail can last a year plus. It can often survive the winter season as its tough and flexible, due to this many invertebrates make use of it. Fly or moth larvae burrow and mine into it for shelter, some beetles and slugs get a meal from it – and some insects and birds will eat the other insects living in the fungi! Deers may even have a nibble on the fungi too!
Turkey Tail has been researched and used medicinally for its apparent immune system boosting benefits. Also as it is so colourful people used to use it to decorate their hats or as table decorations!
As with all fungi – I’m always respectful of it, not damaging or having any need to remove it. It has such an important job to do in the woodland. Turkey tail is safe for most of us to touch but if I am touching any fungi I make sure to wash my hands after (we are experts at doing this anyway just now right?).
I bet you can think of lots of different times in the year when you have seen Turkey Tail. Good luck in finding it or comparing it to one of its lookalikes this week and perhaps you might even see some invertebrates making use of it! We look forward to hearing all about what you’ve found.
Take Care all!
For reference with thanks:
Books: Collins Fungi Guide.