Ling Chih (Lingzhi; Reishi Mushroom)

Ganoderma sessile (formerly G. lucidum)


Photo of ling chih, a shiny, hard, rust-colored bracket fungus, growing on tree
Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia,
Other Common Name
Lin Chi



Hard, usually flat, zoned bracket fungus; reddish brown, shiny top. Grows at the base of living and dead deciduous trees or around stumps. May–November. Cap shelflike, semicircular; dark red to dark brown, lighter toward the margin; texture hard, shiny, often zoned. Pores circular to angular; whitish to brown. Stalk rarely present. Spore print brown. Spores magnified are elliptical, with double wall. When young and fresh, ling chih looks varnished, often with striking color bands of red, yellow, and white.

Lookalikes: Other Ganoderma species. The resinous polypore (Ischnoderma resinosum) exudes amber-colored droplets of moisture when young.


Cap width: 1–14 inches.

Reishi Mushroom

A cluster of fungus growing on a tree trunk. The mushrooms have a red cap and are white underneath.
Reishi Mushroom in Texas County
Habitat and conservation

Grows singly or in groups of up to several, at the base of living and dead deciduous trees, and also around stumps.

image of Ling Chih Lingzhi Reishi Mushroom distribution map
Distribution in Missouri



Edible/medicinal. The ling chih is too tough to be a good edible, but in East Asia it is used medicinally to promote longevity and good health and is thought to prevent cancer. Recent studies in the West have shown that the ling chih stimulates the body’s immune system. It can be ground or purchased commercially and steeped for tea. The flavor of the tea is strong and bitter, but it can be balanced with honey or sugar.

Life cycle

This species lives as a network of cells (mycelium) within living trees as a parasite, and dead trees as a saprobe, digesting and decompoing wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the bracket that emerges from the log—this is the reproductive structure. In polypores, spores are produced in the pores on the underside and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.

Human connections

Ling chih has been used as a traditional medicine in East Asia for thousands of years. While not common in the wild, it is now readily available cultivated. "Ling chih" means "mushroom of immortality" in Chinese. The Japanese name, "reishi," means "10,000 year mushroom."

Ecosystem connections

Fungi are vitally important for a healthy ecosystem. This fungus feeds on hardwood trees, especially oaks, and on their fallen logs, branches, and buried roots. As a saprobe, it helps clean the forest and recycles nutrients back into the soil.