Major Groups > Polypores


[ Basidiomycota . . . ]

The Polypores

by Michael Kuo, 2 October 2022

The polypores form a large group of diverse mushrooms. Most of these are wood decomposers whose spore-making machinery is set up within tubes whose ends make up a surface of many pores ("poly-pores")—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 often can with a bolete. Also, the caps of polypores tend not to be round like bolete caps, polypores usually lack central stems, and the flesh of polypores is usually tougher (though there are exceptions for everything in the list).

Polypores are saprobes that assist in the decomposition of deadwood—and, in some cases, they are pathogenic, acting as parasites and slowly killing their hosts. The mycelium of polypores consumes the wood differently, depending on the species; some consume lignin and create a white rot, while others consume cellulose, making them brown rot fungi.

Taxonomically, the polypores are complicated, and still not completely understood. Seventy years ago, when L. O. Overholts' thorough study of polypores in North America (1953) was published, most of the species of polypores went under the genus name Polyporus. Today, Polyporus is a comparatively small genus, the polypores are distributed among many genera, and DNA studies shift the polypores around on what seems like a daily basis.

Identification of polypores ranges from easy to very difficult. Careful analysis of the mushroom's macrofeatures is sometimes sufficient to reach a reasonably secure identification decision. The pore surface of a polypore is sometimes 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 polypores are often found on deadwood—in which case one must try to figure out what kind of deadwood 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 to KOH, and microscopic features . . . and here the ugly truth must be told. Microscope work with polypores is a pain in the ass. A bonafide shit show. Imagine unpleasant hours spent soaking and re-soaking mounts, cracking coverslips again and again, trying to slice paper-thin sections out of material with the consistency of a rock, yelling, bleeding, re-soaking again, cracking more coverslips, then going downstairs to have dinner with your family with eyes bulging and smoke pouring out of your ears.

And after all of that, the odds are high that you will not have seen the spores, since these freaking mushrooms sit out in the woods for months emptying themselves. As for the hyphal system, which should be "monomitic," "dimitic," or "trimitic," you will ultimately wind up declaring it maybemitic, because what you have actually seen under the microscope is a dark brown mass of whatever-the-hell-that-is, with a few hyphal ends sticking out—ends which you can't focus on because the mount is too thick. Are there setae in the hymenium? Answering this question presupposes one's ability to find the hymenium (good luck), and to cut a section thin enough to isolate the setae from all the rest of the dark brown tissues in the dark brown mass. In short, maybe you should do your family a solid and leave polypore microscopy to the masochists who make careers out of it.


Polyporus squamosus
Polyporus squamosus

Fomitopsis betulina
Fomitopsis betulina

Ganoderma tsugae
Ganoderma tsugae

Trametes versicolor
Trametes versicolor

Inonotus radiatus
Setae of Inonotus radiatus

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 keys 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.

6.Growing on the deadwood of conifers—especially those killed by fire or beetle kill; pore surface covered by a flap of tissue.

6.Growing on the wood of conifers or hardwoods; pore surface not covered by a flap of tissue.
[To be developed.]

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
Favolus brasiliensis
Fistulina hepatica
Fomes fomentarius
Fomitopsis betulina
Fomitopsis mounceae
Fomitopsis pinicola
Fomitopsis spraguei
Fuscopostia fragilis
Ganoderma (genus)
Ganoderma applanatum
Ganoderma curtisii
Ganoderma curtisii meredithiae
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
Rhodofomes cajanderi
Rhodofomes roseus
Sparassis (genus)
Sparassis americana
Sparassis radicata
Sparassis spathulata
Sparassis spathulata herbstii
Spongipellis pachyodon
Spongipellis unicolor
Trametes gibbosa
Trametes hirsuta
Trametes pubescens
Trametes species 01
Trametes versicolor
Trametes villosa
Trichaptum abietinum
Trichaptum biforme
Trichaptum sector
Tyromyces chioneus
Tyromyces fumidiceps


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