The birch polypore mushroom is an incredibly easy to identify mushroom with some miraculous health properties. Fomitopsis betulina, commonly known as the birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop, is a common bracket fungus. As the name suggests, grows almost exclusively on birch trees. The brackets burst out from the bark of the tree, and these fruit bodies can last for more than a year.
Disclaimer: mushroom picking is all fun and games, until someone gets sick. Do not rely on online articles or even videos to correctly identify a mushroom. Join a local mycological society and explore this hobby safely with experts. Wild mushroom enthusiasts are either old or bold, both both. Let’s all aim to be extra safe so we can annoy friends and relatives with stories about ‘the good old days’ of mushroom picking. Mushrooms are super healthy, so they could be the secret to a long life if you don’t take risks.
Identifying a Birch Polypore Mushroom
It is hard to confuse anything with a birch polypore. First of all, it grows on birch trees that are either dead or damaged. They have very firm bodies, even when they are younger. They are white to brownish on top, white on the bottom and they are pure white inside when cut open. Their dense bodies are solid and when you cut them open you can check that they lack gills. I could tell you more, or I can show you what it looks like.
Check out this photo and the video below from my favorite mushroom channel on YouTube!
While the birch polypore mushroom is edible, it is incredibly bitter and not at all appetizing. While it smells like it could taste good, similarly to a puffball or bolete, don’t be fooled. People try to consume this mushroom in a less miserable way, so they make a tea with it.
“It has long been known that the Birch Polypore has medicinal uses, it has been used as a tonic for the immune system, as an antiseptic to clean wounds and promote healing, a plaster that is microporus, antifungal and antiseptic and probably was used by Bronze Age man to get rid of parasitic worms.”Wild Food UK
It is not just an old wive’s tale…
“Modern research confirms the health-promoting benefits of F. betulina. Pharmacological studies have provided evidence supporting the antibacterial, anti-parasitic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, neuroprotective, and immunomodulating activities of F. betulina preparations. Biologically active compounds such as triterpenoids have been isolated. The mushroom is also a reservoir of valuable enzymes and other substances…. In conclusion, F. betulina can be considered as a promising source for the development of new products for healthcare and other biotechnological uses.”Study
The recipe is simple: chop it up, heat up water to an almost boil (if it’s too hot, some of the health properties are lost), and then just drop the mushrooms in until the water looks a little darker. The tea is just as disgusting as the mushroom itself, so people chose to add honey or other sweeteners to make it more bearable.
In order to extract the maximum medicinal value out of these mushrooms, a small quantity (perhaps a tablespoon or two) should be simmered in a pan of a liter or two of water for several hours. Add more water if necessary or place lid on top of pan.
I found seven mushrooms on a single tree while strolling in a scenic spot. Even if this tea tasted like soda, I don’t think I’d manage to drink all of it. The easiest thing to do is to chop it up and either store it in the fridge, or dry it out. One website recommends drying it after it’s finely chopped, then blending it into even smaller bits so it can easily be stored and easily used in tea.
Summary: Birch Polypore Mushroom
This mushroom isn’t one to write home about. Picking them is fun and satisfying because they are easy to identify and find. You won’t see Gordon Ramsay using them in his recipes, but they are full of healthy properties that can be made into tea for easier consumption. Once again, be careful when handling wild mushrooms and don’t take any chances! I expect everyone reading it to live to be 100 years old if not more.
Follow The Travel Bug Bite for more fun content, including articles about mycology! I write a lot about the hobby and with tips on identifying my favorite mushrooms. Don’t forget to check out my earring store too, how cute are these wearable mushrooms?
Other Shroomy Articles:
- Pick Shaming: Mushroom Hunting Dos & Don’ts
- Chanterelle Mushroom: Foraging Guide
- Chicken of the Woods: Easy to Identify Mushrooms
- Why Pick Wild Mushrooms?
- Bolete Mushrooms: Foraging Guide
- Morels: Easy to Identify Mushrooms
- Back to the Roots: Grow Your Mushroom Food Kit
- The New York Mycological Society
- Giant Puffball: Easy to Identify Mushroom in NYC