E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Fomes fomentarius (L.: Fr.) J.J. Kickx
tinder polypore

Species account author: Ian Gibson.
Extracted from Matchmaker: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest.

Introduction to the Macrofungi

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #74684)

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Distribution of Fomes fomentarius
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Species Information

Features include 1) hoof-like growth on hardwood, 2) a woody, gray to gray-brown or gray-black cap with faint horizontal semicircular markings and a light brown margin, 3) light brown flesh, 4) a white-marbled mycelial core at the place of attachment, 5) a brown pore surface with fine circular pores, and 6) cylindric spores. |In Europe before matches were invented, this fungus was ground to a powder and used in tinderboxes. Pieces of Fomes fomentarius context at one time were soaked in saltpeter solution until saturated, then dried carefully to form tinder, which a spark would ignite (Ginns(28)). It has also been used for cautery of wounds. |There is interesting speculation about why the ''Iceman'' was carrying material from Fomes fomentarius and Piptoporus betulinus: "Among the numerous items of equipment with the ''Iceman'', who died more than 5000 years ago on an alpine glacier, were three fungal objects : two different shaped fruitbody pieces of the polypore Piptoporus betulinus, each mounted separately on a leather thong, and, found in his girdle bag, a relatively large quantity of tinder material prepared from the ''true tinder bracket'' Fomes fomentarius. A full description of these items and a chronological report on their identification is given. The question about the possible use of the fungi is discussed on the basis of a comprehensive collection of ethnomycological and pharmacological literature data." (Peintner(5) with Latin names italicized).

Fomes fomentarius has been found in BC, WA, OR, ID, AB, MB, NB, NF, NS, NWT, ON, PE, PQ, SK, AK, CT, IA, MA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, ND, NH, NY, OH, PA, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, and WV, (Gilbertson), TX (Lincoff(2)), and also Europe, Asia, Africa, (Breitenbach).
up to 15cm across, hoof-shaped, tough, woody, gray to gray-brown or gray-black with dark zones, light brown near margin; concentrically grooved, minutely velvety with hard smooth crust, (Phillips), up to 15cm wide, hoof-shaped, tough, woody, "upper surface of pileus quickly developing a hard glabrous crust, older part gray, zonate and shallowly sulcate, marginal part light brown, also zonate, minutely tomentose", (Gilbertson), margin cream-colored, hazel, or light brown (Lincoff(1)), hoof-shaped, 10-25(30)cm across and equally high, projecting 5-20cm, ocher to red-brown when young, later light to dark gray; with concentric waves and grooves, smooth, with hard bald dark brown crust 0.1-0.2cm thick in cross-section, (Breitenbach)
up to 1cm thick, tough, fibrous; yellowish brown, (Phillips), up to 1cm thick, tough-fibrous, azonate, "granular core of varying size developing at upper part of the context next to the substrate, mottled with a mixture of pale and darker areas", (Gilbertson), corky, tough, fibrous, concentrically zoned; light brown; with soft white-marbled mycelial core at place of attachment, (Breitenbach)
4-5 per mm, circular; pale brown, darkening when handled; tube layer 0.5-6cm thick, very thick, not distinctly layered; light brown becoming stuffed with white mycelium, (Phillips), 4-5 per mm, with thick tomentose walls, surface concave; pale brown; tube layers indistinctly stratified, making up most of the interior tissue of the fruitbody, "light brown and becoming stuffed with white mycelium", (Gilbertson), 3-4 per mm, rounded, cream then light ocher to brownish, (Breitenbach)
Chemical Reactions:
KOH on a small piece of the fruit body from the upper surface gives dark blood red reaction (Schwarze)
during its growth it develops a marked banana-like odor (Lincoff(1)), pleasantly fungoid (Breitenbach), none (Miller)
rather bitter (Breitenbach)
spores 12-18(20) x 4-7 microns, cylindric, smooth, inamyloid, colorless; basidia 4-spored, 23-25 x 7-9 microns, with swollen base, with basal clamp; cystidioles 24-37 x 3.5-7.5 microns, thin-walled, fusoid, with basal clamp, also cystidia-like elements near dissepiment edges, up to 120 microns long, 3-5 microns wide, projecting up to 55 microns, some lightly incrusted; hyphal system trimitic, context generative hyphae inconspicuous, 2-4 microns wide, thin-walled, nodose-septate, context skeletal hyphae 3-8 microns wide, thick-walled, pale yellowish brown in KOH, aseptate, context binding hyphae 1.5-3 microns wide, thick-walled, much-branched, aseptate, "granular core a mixture of binding hyphae, narrow skeletal hyphae, and irregularly shaped, thick-walled sclerids that are brown in KOH, tramal hyphae similar, except for sclerids", (Gilbertson), spores 18.5-19 x 5.5-6 microns, elliptic-cylindric, smooth, inamyloid, colorless, (Breitenbach)
Spore Deposit:
lemon-yellow (Phillips), white (Lincoff(2)), light yellow (Miller)

Habitat / Range

on dead or living hardwood trees, including birch, beech, maple and poplar, (Phillips), perennial, on living and dead hardwoods, especially Betula (birch) and Alnus (alder), causing white mottled heartrot of living hardwoods, continuing to fruit on dead and fallen trees, (Gilbertson), on dead hardwoods or wounds in living trees, including maple, birch, beech, hickory, poplar, and cherry, (Lincoff(2)), fruiting all season (Miller), spores produced in fall (Bacon)

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Polyporus fomentarius L.: Fr.
Ungulina fomentaria (L.: Fr.) Pat.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Range and Status Information Links


no (Phillips)

Additional Photo Sources

Related Databases

Species References

Gilbertson(1), Ginns(28)*, Phillips(1)*, Lincoff(2)*, Lincoff(1)*, Miller(14)*, Schalkwijk-Barendsen(1)*, Courtecuisse(1)*, Breitenbach(2)*, Sept(1)*, Arora(1), Bacon(1)*, Buczacki(1)*, Schwarze(1), Marrone(1)*, Peintner(5)

References for the fungi

General References