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Help with winter polypore?

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It's still early January, there's been plenty of snow and last week, below zero temperatures. The last few days, the snow has melted, we've had temperatures in the (mid to high) 40's and, During walks in the woods, I've been a little surprised to already find 3 or 4 different types of mushrooms. Most in small quantities ...except for these. There's a fair amount of them and unlike many polypores they appear (at this point) quite tender; not at all "tough" or "woody". My understanding is that few if any are poisonous but still, I'd like to know.

Photos were shot and post begun yesterday with temperatures in the 40's. Today it dropped back down to 30's. They've frozen and (I think) somewhat changed colors.

Found in northern Ohio, January/winter growing on an old Cottonwood stump.
Fairly thin, "tender" but not particularly fragile
Top: off-white, texture: toothy, edges wrinkles up
Underside reddish brown, "rust" colored tubes
Spore print revealed nothing (yet)
Cutting top showed no color change
Smell: delicious, very mushroomy

Also, assuming they were good to begin with, are there any problems now that they've been "flash frozen" or just expect hem to be a little "mushier" than otherwise?

Any help IDing these is appreciated. Thanks




I see others have been posting about "winter mushrooms" and I have a general question about them. Are they actually growing under the snow and discovered once it clears or, after a melt, do they pop up overnight?


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Dave W   

I think this may be an example of Spongipellis pachydon. Looks like a fairly old specimen that probably fruited before the temperatures first dipped below freezing and has managed to remain intact throughout a few freeze/thaw cycles. I doubt this fruited recently, after the most recent thaw. Many types of polypore fruit bodies will persist into the winter, and you see them during thaws. Cottonwood is not listed as a typical host for S. pachydon, but I suspect it occurs on a variety of deciduous wood. The genus Trichaptum is another possibility, but I'm leaning toward Spongipellis. Spongipellis pachydon is listed as "not edible." My guess is that it is chewy and tastes bland, and may be indigestible.

Some of the other mushrooms that have been recently discussed on this board are true winter fruiters, like the edible Flammulina velutipes and the deadly poisonous Galerina marginata. Some photos of G. marginata and Panellus stipticus I posted the other day show mushrooms that apparently fruited during a thaw that occurred only a few days after we had several days with morning temps below 0F.


Tubaria furfuracea is another species of gilled mushroom that occurs during winter thaws. Oyster Mushrooms may also fruit during a thaw, but usually not after the weather has been very cold for an extended period of time.

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I guess I can "neither confirm or deny". I followed up on your lead and looked into Spongipellis pachydon. I don't know. There are similarities but I don't see a "perfect match". I haven't yet looked into this enough but I suppose, as with most, there might be varieties/variations? And of course, as you mentioned, if this is an older specimen certain characteristics will have changed.

I also noticed, as you pointed out, that it was often described as as "not edible", "inedible" ..yet not poisonous. How is this to be interpreted? like with a piece of wood, "you could eat this but, trust me, you wouldn't want to"?

The texture of what I have here, was similar to, but, I think, more tender than Hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa) and no one considers those inedible. Maybe the freeze and thaw tenderized them?

I don't know. I suppose looking into this further may be a waste of time but, damn, they smell like something I'd really like to eat!

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Dave W   

Good question about the meaning of "inedible." I have no definitive answer. It may mean any of the following: 1. Tastes bad. 2. Texture too tough. 3. indigestible. 4. Mildly toxic. 5. Nobody actually knows what it's like to eat it.

Actionclaw, given that this specimen is likely old and weathered, and --perhaps most importantly-- that you have not positively IDed this fungus, I think it's a bad idea to experiment with eating any of this.

Here's a suggestion. It's something I try to do, when my memory works well enough to actually follow through... Next year, return to the area where the polypore was observed and look for a fresher example. Difficult to say how to time this. But seeing as this polypore is still intact during mid-winter, maybe the latter part of autumn would make most sense. No guarantee there will be another one next year. But generally, polypores tend to occur in the same spots year after year until the nutrients in the substrate are depleted.

Learning new mushrooms is often an exercise that occurs over years. A first collection is studied and discarded. Seeing the same type a second or third time and readily recognizing it adds confidence. The passing of time allows for both research and reflection. Of course there are some types that are easy to ID... sulphur shelf, morel, puffball. But the majority of fungi offer identification challenges.

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