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Finding Turkey Tail Mushrooms

If you live near a forest, chances are you have seen turkey tails. I am not talking about Thanksgiving bird feathers, but about a type of shelf or bracket fungus that resembles its namesake. The scientific name is Trametes versicolor.

These fungi are found throughout the world on dead hardwood stumps and logs and sometimes on trees that are still alive. They can also grow on conifer wood. They play an important role in the biology of the forest, digesting dead wood and providing food and shelter to numerous tiny insects and spiders.

Recently I noticed these fungi growing on a log in my woodland garden, and their beauty motivated me to do some research.

Turkey tail brackets have colorful concentric circles of white, bronze, cinnamon, and sometimes blue, green, and orange. Their cups are hairy or velvety. Fresh turkey tails are thin and pliable but become stiff with age.

Their undersides are pale, yellowish to white with many tiny pores that are visible to the naked eye, about 3 to 8 pores per mm, as seen here:Because of their numerous pores, they are known as polypores. False turkey tail, Sterium hirsutum, looks very similar but can be distinguished from the true turkey tail by its lack of visible pores. Other types of shelf mushrooms may have gills on their undersides.

Turkey tail mushrooms are not very tasty, but they are edible. They have been used in folk medicine for thousands of years, usually brewed as a tea, and they are being actively studied for their medicinal value. They are high in antioxidants and promote the function of the immune system. Research has shown them to be beneficial in fighting certain cancers. Health food stores often sale turkey tail supplements and extracts.

The log that carries my colony of turkey tails also sprouts resurrection fern, Pleopeltis polypodioides, which wilts when the weather is dry but quickly revives with rain. Behind the log is my old woodland rabbit, and there are a few impatiens blooming to the side and a colocasia behind it. The colocasia flops too much, and I will probably replace it next year with something more attractive. It is a small vignette beside the woodland path. It is not flashy, but overall it is a pleasing combination and provides an interesting ecosystem to observe.


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Reader Comments (15)

I found some of this fungus growing on a half-barrel I use as a planter last year. I was pleased to find it, even though it means that the barrel is in the process of decaying. I found the growths attractive, although I didn't know they had medicinal value!

August 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

We have lots of turkey tails around. I love that your log also supports a ressurection fern. Such a sweet spot in the garden! xo

August 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChristi {Jealous Hands}

I am always intrigued by these unusual looking mushrooms. Thank you for the informative post. BTW: The weeping evergreen in my post that you asked about is a Weeping White Pine (Pinus strobus 'Pendula').It is mostly hardy in USDA zones 3-9. Happy Gardening!

I see Turkey Tail fungus in the woods where we often walk. They are beautiful in their variations.

August 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLisa at Greenbow

I'm glad you researched this for us! I couldn't have possibly done the research because I didn't know what they were called but I have seen them in the wooded section of our property.

August 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSouthern Rural Route

What a fun post. I have seen Turkey Tail fungus all my life but didn't know the name. your vignette is lovely.....

August 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSally

I love turkey tails but I've always known them as tree ears. Thank you for all the info on them! Your woodland rabbit is situated in a place similar to mine (her name is Henrietta) and she resides next to a horizontal snag where she enjoys interacting with the critters who visit the snag.

August 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Evans

Those are awesome, aren't they?! We have them in our woodland, too. It seems I notice them more in the fall/early winter and then in the late winter/early spring. Fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing all the research!

August 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

Your woodland looks surprisingly green; demonstrating what a little rain can do.

August 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I've seen this fungus before, but didn't know what it was called. Very interesting! I like your vignette!

August 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Those turkey tail mushrooms are beautiful! How long do they last? The resurrection fern is new to me. So I googled it … amazing plant.

August 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Hi everybody! Thank you all for your comments. Each is important to me. Denise, I think most turkey tails are considered annuals, but they persist for many months. It is common to find them even in winter. Deb

August 29, 2017 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Beauty from an unexpected source. Had no idea they were edible. Great post!

August 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Not flashy, as you say, but beautiful and peaceful!

September 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Dalton

I do love to find interesting fungi on my woodland walk, always snapping away with my camera. You've captured them well!

September 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Ruff Leja

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