Bracket fungi

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Bracket fungi grow horizontally out of the trunk of a tree, rather than vertically out of the ground, and generally feed off the tree they are growing on, hastening its decay and sometimes causing its death. Some only attack one particular type of tree, such as the birch polypore, or a narrow range of trees, such as the silver-leaf fungus that attacks plums and other fruit trees.

Most are inedible because they are too tough, but there are a few exceptions, and notably the oyster mushroom, which grows on recently dead wood. It is also exceptional in that it has gills on its underside, whereas most bracket fungi have a sponge-like arrangement of tiny pores. Beefsteak fungus is edible too, but is not to everyone's taste. It's so called because it looks like a raw steak, not because it tastes like one!

Bracket fungi can reach a very large size, given time to grow, and dryads saddle is one of the largest, growing up to 60 cm across.

© Tony Gunton

More information

'Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain & Europe' by Roger Philips is a well illustrated and comprehensive book on fungi but too big to carry around with you. Consult this when you get back from an outing collecting fungi, and get a smaller field guide to take with you if you want.