Major Groups > Polypores


Polyporales: The Polypores

[ Basidiomycetes . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

The Polyporales form a large group of diverse mushrooms. Most of these are "polypores" in the widely used sense of the word: they are wood decomposers whose spores are held in tubes--rather like the tubes of the boletes, except that with some exceptions the tube layer of a polypore cannot be easily removed as a layer, the way it can with a bolete. Aside from the fact that many of them are attractive and interesting mushrooms, polypores are of special interest to humans because they are wood rotters, assisting in the decomposition of dead wood--and, in many cases, causing rot as pathogens on living wood. Thus the appearance of Laetiporus sulphureus on a living tree, for example, probably signifies the beginning of the end for the tree; inspection of the wood would reveal a reddish brown rot of the heart wood, caused by the mushroom's mycelium.

Taxonomically, the polypores are complicated, and not completely understood. Fifty years ago, when L. O. Overholts' thorough study of polypores in North America (1953) was published, nearly all the species of polypores went under the genus name Polyporus. Today, Polyporus is a comparatively small genus, and many separate genera (and families to hold the genera) have been erected. Current DNA studies shift the polypores around on what seems like a daily basis, and a few have been moved out of the polypore order entirely--like Bondarzewia berkeleyi, which is currently placed in the Russulales. See the page on mushroom taxonomy for the most current portrait of polypore taxonomy.

Identification of polypores is not an insurmountable task--with a few exceptions. Careful analysis of the mushroom's macrofeatures is often sufficient to reach a reasonably secure identification decision. The pore surface of a polypore is often distinctive; for example, Daedaleopsis confragosa has a maze-like pore surface, easily distinguished from the pore surfaces of the many polypores with tiny, round pores. Be sure to pay careful attention to the "host" of your polypore, since identification can sometimes hinge on this information. When polypores grow on living trees, this is a matter of identifying the tree. But the more common scenario involves dead wood--in which case one must make assumptions about what kind of dead wood is involved. Notice, at the very least, whether your mushroom grows in conifer woods or among hardwoods. However, if your mushroom is on a very large stump in the midst of a forest full of small trees, it may take some research or guesswork to determine what kind of tree the stump may represent. Other features often important in the identification of polypores include the reaction of the flesh in KOH, and microscopic features.


Piptoporus betulinus
Piptoporus betulinus

Laetiporus sulphureus
Laetiporus sulphureus

Bondarzewia berkeleyi
Bondarzewia berkeleyi

Hapalopilus nidulans
Hapalopilus nidulans

Neofavolus alveolaris
Neofavolus alveolaris

Incomplete Key to North American Polypores  

I have not yet completed a key to North American polypores, but I have started the ball rolling with a key to the pale-fleshed, stemmed polypores, and a key to the genera Ganoderma and Laetiporus.

1.Stem present (central or lateral).

1.Stem absent.

2.Flesh pale (white, pale pinkish, etc.) when young and fresh, and cap not with a lacquered appearance.

2.Flesh darker than above when fresh and young—or if flesh is pale, cap with a lacquered appearance.

3.Cap with a shellacked or lacquered upper surface; spores with a double, chambered-looking wall (illustration).

3.Cap not lacquered—or if so, spores not double-walled.
[To be developed.]

4.Flesh soft and white to yellow when young and fresh, eventually becoming chalky but not hard; cap a shade of orange or yellow; growing in shelving clusters or rosettes; spore print white.

4.Not completely as above.

5.Spores with a double, chambered-looking wall (illustration); cap often with a shellacked or lacquered upper surface—or, if not lacquered, dull brown; KOH black on flesh; pore surface bruising brown (sometimes slowly).

5.Not completely as above.
[To be developed.]


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Polypore Pages

Abortiporus biennis
Albatrellus (genus)
Albatrellus caeruleoporus
Albatrellus confluens
Albatrellus cristatus
Albatrellus ovinus
Albatrellus pes-caprae
Antrodia juniperina
Bjerkandera adusta
Bondarzewia berkeleyi
Buglossoporus quercinus
Cerrena unicolor
Coltricia cinnamomea
Coltricia montagnei
Coriolopsis gallica
Cryptoporus volvatus
Daedalea quercina
Daedaleopsis confragosa
Fistulina hepatica
Fomes fomentarius
Fomitopsis betulina
Fomitopsis cajanderi
Fomitopsis mounceae
Fomitopsis pinicola
Fomitopsis rosea
Fomitopsis spraguei
Fuscopostia fragilis
Ganoderma (genus)
Ganoderma applanatum
Ganoderma curtisii
Ganoderma oregonense
Ganoderma sessile
Ganoderma tsugae
Globifomes graveolens
Gloeophyllum sepiarium
Gloeoporus dichrous
Grifola frondosa
Hapalopilus croceus
Hapalopilus nidulans
Heterobasidion annosum
Hexagonia hydnoides
Inonotus arizonicus
Inonotus dryadeus
Inonotus obliquus
Inonotus quercustris
Inonotus radiatus
Irpex lacteus
Ischnoderma benzoinum
Ischnoderma resinosum
Laetiporus (genus)
Laetiporus cincinnatus
Laetiporus gilbertsonii
Laetiporus sulphureus
Lenzites betulina
Meripilus sumstinei
Microporellus dealbatus
Microporellus obovatus
Neofavolus alveolaris
Nigroporus vinosus
Onnia tomentosa
Osteina obducta
Perenniporia fraxinophila
Perenniporia ohiensis
Perenniporia robiniophila
Phaeolus schweinitzii
Phellinus everhartii
Phellinus gilvus
Phellinus robiniae
Phellinus tremulae
Phlebia incarnata
Polyporus arcularius
Polyporus badius
Polyporus brumalis
Polyporus radicatus
Polyporus squamosus
Polyporus umbellatus
Polyporus varius
Porodaedalea pini
Poronidulus conchifer
Pseudofistulina radicata
Pycnoporellus alboluteus
Pycnoporellus fulgens
Pycnoporus cinnabarinus
Pyrofomes juniperinus
Sparassis (genus)
Sparassis americana
Sparassis radicata
Sparassis spathulata
Spongipellis pachyodon
Spongipellis unicolor
Trametes elegans
Trametes hirsuta
Trametes pubescens
Trametes versicolor
Trametes villosa
Trichaptum abietinum
Trichaptum biforme
Trichaptum sector
Tyromyces chioneus
Tyromyces fumidiceps

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