Fomitopsis pinicola (Sw.) P. Karst. - Red-belted Bracket

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Polyporales - Family: Fomitopsidaceae

Fomitopsis pinicola - Red-belted Bracket

An orange or red band is nearly always present between the older annual layers and the current layer, making this polypore instantly recognisable.

Distribution

Rare in Britain and Ireland but common in most countries of mainland Europe, in Scandinavia Fomitopsis pinicola is very common, and in Slovenia the Red-belted Bracket is quite often seen the trunks of aged birches and Beech trees as well as on conifers.

Fomitopsis pinicola - Red-belted Bracket

In old fruitbodies (right-hand bracket in the picture on the left), the red belt is not always clearly visible, and then it is easy to mistake Fomitopsis pinicola for the Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius.

Taxonomic history

The Red-belted Bracket was first described scientifically in 1810 by (NB: we assume but as yet have no reference source for confrmation) Swedish botanist Olof Swartz (1760 - 1818), who gave it the binomial scientific name Boletus pinicola. In 1881 the Finnish mycologist Petter Adolf Karsten (1834 - 1917) transferred this species to the new genus Fomitopsis, which he set up at that time, thus establishing the Red-belted Bracket's currently-accepted scientific name Fomitopsis pinicola.

Fomitopsis pinicola - Red-belted Bracket showing droplets exuded from the pores

Synonyms of Fomitopsis pinicola include Boletus pinicola Sw., and Polyporus pinicola (Sw.) Fr.

Fomitopsis pinicola is the type species of the genus Fomitopsis.

Etymology

Fomitopsis, the generic name, means 'similar in appearance to Fomes' (the latter being genus containing Fomes fomentarius, the Hoof Fungus, with which the Red-belted Bracket is sometimes confused. The specific epithet pinicola means inhabiting (living on) Pinus species, in other words pine trees.

The pores and the margins of young fruitbodies sometimes exude watery droplets - an example can be seen in the picture on the left, where a young bracket is growing on the cut surface of a felled pine tree.

Identification guide

Fomitopsis pinicola, a beautifil example of Red-belted Polypore

Upper (infertile) surface

Annual layers of tubes build up to produce a large brackets, usually in the form of a woody hoof-shaped structure 8 to 25cm across and typically 5 to 10cm deep at the centre of the attachment area.

The upper infertile surface, appearing as though varnished in young brackets but gradually dulling with age, is mainly grey with annual zone rings and ridges, but there is nearly always an orange or red growing band near the rim and a thinner white band right at the outermost edge.

Fertile undersurface of Fomitopsis pinicola, the Red-banded Bracket

Pores and Tubes

Inside the fruiting body the flesh is hard and pale brown, while the spore-bearing surface has minute roundish pores, spaced at 3 to 4 per mm; the pores are cream at first (and bruise yellowish buff) but with age they become brown.

 

 

Spores

Ellipsoidal to cylindrical, smooth, 6-8 x 3.5-4μm; inamyloid.

Spore print

Very pale lemon yellow.

Odour/taste

Not significant.

Habitat & Ecological role

This pale-spored perennial polypore is found on living or dead conifers and occasionally on birches.

Season

Brackets can be seen all year round, but these perennial fungi shed their spores in late summer and autumn. They can live for several years, and if you cut through a bracket it is easy to count the number of tube layers and hence the age of the fruitbody.

Similar species

This perennial bracket could be confused with Hoof Fungus, Fomes fomentarius, which is also hoof-shaped and has a grey upper surface but lacks the red or orange banding.

Fomitopsis pinicola on the base of a beech tree, an unusual substrate for the Red-belted Bracket

Culinary Notes

These bracket fungi are far too tough to be edible.

Reference Sources

Mattheck, C., and Weber, K. Manual of Wood Decays in Trees. Arboricultural Association 2003.

Pat O'Reilly, Fascinated by Fungi, 2016.

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

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