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What is this?
These interesting and colorful “shelves” growing out of trees are called “conks”. They are the fruiting bodies of shelf or bracket fungi which belong to the phylum Basidiomycota of the Fungi Kingdom. Some conks are annual while others are perennial. Perennial conks often consist of beautiful multi-colored bands that are annual growth rings, and the conks can weigh as much as several hundred pounds. While these fruiting bodies look interesting, they are an indication of a tree in trouble. Shelf fungi are a major wood rotting group. The fungi usually penetrate a tree through wounds. They invade the wood, extract nutrients, and weaken the tree.
While many Basidiomycato with large fruiting bodies are agents of wood decay, some are grown commercially for food, such as mushrooms.
This fungal group is best known for the production of large fruiting bodies but it also contains fungi that produce smaller and different looking fruiting bodies as well as rust and smut fungi.
Photos by Bob T.
Another type of tree fungus
This white, lacy-looking growth, often referred to as “tooth fungus”, is produced by a member of the genus Hericium which also belongs to the phylum Basidiomycota. The fruiting bodies of species in this genus resemble a mass of fragile icicle-like spines. (Thanks to Dr. Alan Fryday, Michigan State University, and Dr. David Lindner, US Forest Service, for identification.)
Photo by Bob T.