Apart from the usual (and culinary preferable) spring mushrooms out there such as the Morels and St.Georges Mushroom, there is still one pretty common woodland mushroom you may come across.
Polypore literally means ‘many pores’ due to the holes showing on the underside of the cap. These are the open ends of decurrent tubes growing downwards from the underside of the cap. All members of this genus come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes, but they consistently feature the typical cap and stem morphology of a regular mushroom with gills.
The common name is quite relevant, as this mushroom has an uncommon fruiting season that typically begins at the end of autumn continuing through to the end of spring. Not many mushrooms last through this seasonal time span.
I often find these mushrooms in small groups on large dead beech branches in early to mid spring. I venture out less in winter so I suspect that’s why I don’t see them often during this time!
The cap flesh is very thin and the surface is nice and smooth. It has an average cap size of around 2-8cm. Its shape is initially convex but matures flatter and appears in various shades of tawny/brown. You may often see concentric zones of light and dark brown on the surface too.
The images here show some slightly older examples. They become much more tough and leathery with age, and the cap edge becomes darker. The relatively large roundish/rectangular pores are initially white, but these too discolour to yellowish-brown over time.
They are very widespread and pretty common, so keep a look out for them this spring. Enjoy.
QUICK ID TABLE: WINTER POLYPORE Polyporus brumalis
CAP / FLESH / MILK
2-8 cm across. Variable shades of brown sometimes with concentric light & dark bands. Smooth texture, thin flesh.
Up to 7cm long. Similar colour to cap. Cylindrical shape, sometimes off centre attachment.
PORES / SPORE PRINT
White when young. Turning tan with age. Roundish or sausage shaped (rectangular).
HABITAT / SEASON
On dead hardwood, esp. beech branches. Late autumn through to late spring.
Inedible. Too tough. Little flesh.
The Genus POLYPORUS (Polypores): Characteristics to look out for:
• Nearly all are bracket fungi, but a few are with typical cap and stem but with pores instead of gills underside.