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Birch Polypore

Edible Edible
Autumn Autumn
Summer Summer

This common white bracket fungus has many uses and has been utilised by humans for thousands of years.

Mushroom Type
Common Names Birch Polypore, Razor Strop Fungus
Scientific Name Piptoporus betulinus
Season Start Aug
Season End Nov
Average Mushroom height (CM) 6
Average Cap width (CM) 30
Please note that each and every mushroom you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Fruiting Body

White turning grey/brown with age. Starting subglobose then forming a ‘hoof’ shape finally becoming an enlarged flat bracket.

Pores

White, very fine pores underneath turning buff with maturity.

Flesh

White and firm

Habitat

Growing on dead or damaged birch trees

Possible Confusion

This distinctive mushroom is difficult to confuse with any other as it only grows on Birch.

Spore Print

White. Ellipsoid, cylindrical.

Taste / Smell

Mushroomy but a little bitter

Frequency

Very common.

Other Facts

The Birch Polypore, Piptoporus betulinus, grows on Birch trees and can be a parasite to living trees slowly killing them and then living on the dead tree for many years until the tree has rotted to nothing.
The mushroom grows exclusively on Birch naturally but can be artificially introduced to other types of tree.
It has long been known that the Birch Polypore has medicinal uses, it has been used as a tonic for the immune system, as an antiseptic to clean wounds and promote healing, a plaster that is microporus, antifungal and antiseptic and probably was used by Bronze Age man to get rid of parasitic worms.
In 1991 Austrian hikers in the Tyrol region of the Italian Alps discovered a frozen corpse. When this was later examined it turned out to be a 5300 year old mummy that they named Otzi. Otzi had some Birch Polypore on a leather thong around his neck, he also had a parasitic intestinal worm called a Whipworm which can be cured with polypolenic acid which is one of the chemicals present in the Birch Polypore.
Another possible use of the fungus by Bronze Age man was as a very good tinder that can be started with a weak spark or used to transport fire as the fungus can smoulder for a long time and can be used to take to the next camp or destination and get a fire lit quickly without the long and laborious task of lighting a fire by friction.
Birch trees contain betulenic acid which has many health benefits, there are also other chemicals in the Birch Polypore that are beneficial for being healthy. With modern research it is becoming clear that the Birch Polypore is an important mushroom to look into, tests have been carried out and so far found the following.

Antiviral. In tests extracts from the Birch Polypore blocked reproduction in HIV cells, attacked and incapacitated encepholitis infections and has proved positive in treating flu, yellow fever and West Nile flu.

Antibiotic. The Birch Polypore contains the antibiotic piptamine which has been used to treat e-coli.

Anti inflammatory. There are several triterpene acids present and these are known anti inflammatories.

Anti Tumor. Betulenic acid and other chemicals in the fungi have been shown to cause apoptosis, the destruction of cancer cells while not affecting healthy cells.

Antiseptic. For cleaning wounds and being an aid to healing.

Antifungal. This mushroom does not like to share its habitat with other mushrooms and contains some powerful antifungals.

Stiptic. The fungus has stiptic properties (it staunches bleeding).

The mushroom has very beneficial effects on the immune system and many people drink a tea made from the fresh or dried fungi and swear by its positive effects.
A plaster can be made from the underside of the mushroom, a strip needs to be cut and carefully removed from the pore membrane. This provides a microporus, anti fungal, antisceptic and self sticking plaster, much better than can be purchased from the shops.
A corn or blister plaster can be easily fashioned from the flesh of the mushroom by cutting some flesh into a doughnut shape of the right size and applying to the corn or blister.
The common name Razor Strop Fungus comes from the use in old barber shops of cutting a strip from the underside of the fungus, drying it and sticking it to a piece of flat wood. This was used to give the final finish to the cut throat razors that barbers used. I’m not sure if they were aware of the fact but in doing so they were giving their blades an antiseptic, antifungal and stiptic wipe!
The fungus has also been used in the past as very fine emery cloth to polish metals, making ink blotters and even bases for mounting insects for collections.
Truly the Swiss Army knife of mushrooms.

COMMENTS

16 comments for Birch Polypore

  1. Michelle says:

    Can I get rid of this in my tree?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is almost impossible to kill the fungus without harming the tree but it is a great medicinal fungus that can be used in a tea for an immune system booster. Birch trees do not live very long, on average, less than 100 years, so if it is getting old, the fungus can’t really do any harm.

  2. Mark Wilson says:

    I am new to mushroom foraging, however I think I have identified a Birch Polypore qhich looks old. Could you help with the id and whether it is edible.
    It has a brown cap with a porous pale underside, it was located on a dead birch tree (I think). When sliced it is white right through..
    Your assistancecwoukd be appreciated.
    Regards
    Mark

  3. Alejandrina says:

    Hello my name is Alejandrina thank you so much for the information. I harvested some Piptoporus betulinus and i wonder how much is the dosis I need to take and for how many days ?

  4. Sienna says:

    When is the most Optimal time to harvest for best medicinal benefits and is it possible to dry on a drying rack rather than a dehydrator?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The best time is when it looks in good condition, they dry well on racks without a dehydrator.

  5. Bettina says:

    Hello there
    I want to know if i get same benefits from the mushroom by drying and making powder from it?
    Bettina

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The glutamate concentration goes up if you dry mushrooms giving them have a stronger, more savoury taste.

  6. Bettina says:

    Also how much powder can i put in an capsle or in a smoothie 🥳

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      As it is edible, if a little bitter, it shouldn’t matter how much you consume unless you start eating kilos of them which could cause some gastric problems.

  7. Brian says:

    Im new to foraging but have found some Birch polypore on a dead tree.
    I was tempted to try some. Would I simply cut it and cook the same way as you would mushrooms from the shop? Thanks

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Although edible it is quite tough and bitter, it is best used to make a medicinal tea than cooked and eaten like other mushrooms.

  8. Tony says:

    I have been trying to find out about making tea from this mushroom. I can’t find any advice about this particular species, but regarding mushrooms in general, I’m coming up against varied opinions on whether I should use boiling water or not. Some even suggest simmering it for 20 minutes. Any ideas?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I simply slice the mushroom, place a small handful in a cup and add boiled water about a minute after boiling.

  9. Chris says:

    Hi there, if December is the best time to pick, cut & eat this mushroom when you you say is the time to not pick it as it would not be good for you. Thanks in advance. Chris

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      There is no bad time to harvest this mushroom but December could be a little late as the mushroom may have started to rot by then.

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