Ganoderma australe ( Fr.) Pat. - Southern Bracket

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

Ganoderma australe (Ganoderma adspersum) Southern Bracket

Ganoderma australe (syn. Ganoderma adspersum (Schulz.) Donk.) is a common perennial bracket fungus that causes white heart rot in trees of the genera Tilia (limes), Quercus (oaks), Fagus (beech, birch etc), Platanus (Sycamore etc) and Aesculus (Horse Chestnut and relatives). In the early stages of colonisation it is thought to be a parasitic fungus, but as the tree dies it becomes saprobic, as most parasitic fungi do. The perennial fruitbodies of Gamoderma australe appear mainly on the lower trunk, most often near to the base.

This tough, inedible bracket lives for many years, developing noticeable growing ridges on the upper surface.

Ganoderma australe (Ganoderma adspersum) Southern Bracket, in tiers near the base of a tree

Distribution

Widespread and common in Britain and Ireland, Ganoderma australe is found throughout most of mainland Europe and is most common in central and northern Europe.

Taxonomic history

The great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries described this species in 1828 and named it Polyporus australis. Its current scientific name comes from a 1889 publication by French pharmacist and mycologist Narcisse Théophile Patouillard (1854 - 1926).

Synonyms of Ganoderma australe include Polyporus australis Fr., Polyporus adspersus Schulzer, Fomes australis (Fr.) Cooke, Ganoderma europaeum Steyaert, and Ganoderma adspersum (Schulzer) Donk. (Until quite recently most field guides listed this species as Ganoderma adspersum.)

Etymology

Shining skin is the literal translation of Ganoderma, which comes from the Greek words Ganos, meaning brightness (or shining); and derma, meaning skin, although not all Ganoderma fungi have particularly bright shiny surfaces. The specific epithet australe means southern - not 'of Austria', for which austriaca would be used.

Identification guide

Ganoderma australe on the trunk of a Beech tree

Fruitbody

Ganoderma australe is a large bracket fungus that grows to typically 25cm across but exceptionally 50cm, and 5 to 25cm thick, with a pale margin and lower surface and a dark brown or dark grey upper surface. The tube layer is brilliant white when ready to release spores, but as with other Ganoderma fungi the spores are brown and soon colour the surrounding area including parts of the top of the bracket with a dense brown dust.

Fertile underside of a Southern Bracket fungus

Tubes and Pores

The red-brown tubes of the Southern Bracket are tiered, a new layer being produced each year.

The small round pores, typically three or four per mm, are white when the fruiting body is growing and approaching the time when spores will be released, turning brown with age or when bruised. A new tube layer grows on the lower surface each year.

Spore of Ganoderma australe

Spores

Ovoid, twin-walled, truncate at the apex, 8-13 x 5.5-9µm.

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Spore print

Brown.

Odour/taste

Very little odour but a bitter taste.

Habitat & Ecological role

Ganoderma australe produces brackets on the lower parts of hardwood tree trunks; it has recently been found growing on pine trees in Italy and may therefore be able to attack other kinds of conifers.

Season

Southern Bracket is perennial and releases spores in late summer and autumn.

Similar species

Ganoderma resinaceum, which releases a yellow resin when broken,  has a much thicker white margin than Ganoderma australe.

Ganoderma applanatum is similar but with smaller spores.

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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