Beefsteak Polypore

Fistulina hepatica

beefsteak_polypore_top_4-30-13.jpg

Photo of beefsteak polypore, a rust-colored bracket fungus growing on tree base
João Loureiro, University de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Bugwood.org
Edible
Family

Fistulinaceae

Description

Thick, semicircular, reddish or rusty, gelatinous bracket; pinkish yellow underside. Grows at the base of living oaks and on stumps. July–October. Cap semicircular or spoon-shaped; reddish or rusty; texture gelatinous, smooth; flesh is thick, dark pinkish, mottled with lighter veining. Pores circular; whitish, becoming reddish brown. Stalk (if present) very short, thick; broad, then tapered; blood red. Spore print pinkish salmon. Spores magnified are smooth, oval.

No lookalikes in Missouri.

Size

Cap width: 3–20 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Grows singly or in groups of up to several at the base of living oaks and on stumps. The genus name, Fistulina, means “small pipes,” referring to the spore-producing tubes on the underside of the beefsteak polypore. The tubes are very small and closely packed but do not touch each other.

image of Beefsteak Polypore Distribution Map
Status

Considered a good edible, when young and fresh. The taste is acidic and sour, and the texture is squishy, like liver. The beefsteak polypore is delicious after marinating overnight and adding to lentils or a grain (or both). The names refer to the look of this fungus. Hepatica means “liver,” and this mushroom really does look like a liver from a large animal. It also has a strong resemblance to a thick piece of beef.

Life cycle

This species exists as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting wood. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the brackets outside the wood, which are reproductive structures. Spores are produced in the pores and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.

Human connections

When you are eating a wild mushroom for the first time, even one that is considered a "choice edible," it is a good idea to sample only a small amount at first, since some people are simply allergic to certain chemicals in certain fungi. Make sure they are cooked, too.

Ecosystem connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying plant materials. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials plants are made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.