Lenzites betulina  (L.) Fr. - Birch Mazegill

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

Lenzites betulina - Birch Mazegill

From the top this attractive bracket is easily misidentified. There are so many colour variations in Trametes versicolor that it is almost forgivable to assume that any fan-shaped thin bracket with concentric, many-zoned bands on its upper surface must be yet another Turkeytail. No so! Just as variable in colour as Trametes versicolor is this thin and leathery fan-like bracket, again with many concentric colour bands, but there is one very important feature distinguishing it from Turkeytail... it has gills.

To spot the difference between Lenzites and Trametes, you have to look on the underside of a bracket. Lenzites betulinus has definite gill-like slots rather than pores. They aren’t merely very long mazegill slots either, but structures very similar to the gills of an agaric mushroom. The Birch Mazegill is, nevertheless, a polypore – taxonomically, that is!

The pictures shown on this page were taken in Poland by Jerzy Opiola via Wikipedia and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Lenzites betulina - Birch Mazegill, France

Distribution

An uncommon but conspicuous bracket fungus, the Birch Mazegill is found occasionally throughout Britain and Ireland.

Taxonomic history

In 1753, when Carl Linnaeus described this bracket fungus, he gave it the binomial scientific name Agaricus betulinus. The great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries transferred this species to the genus Lenzites in 1838, and Lenzites betulina is still generally-accepted scientific name today.

Lenzites betulina has several synonyms including Agaricus betulinus L., Agaricus flaccidus Bull., Daedalea variegata Fr., Apus coriaceus Gray, Daedalea betulina (L.) Fr., Lenzites flaccida (Bull.) Fr., and Lenzites variegata (Fr.) Fr.

Etymology

Lenzites, the genus name, was established in 1835 by Elias Magnus Fries, perhaps honouring German mycologist Harald Othmar Lenz (1798 - 1870). The specific epithet betulina means 'of birch trees' - a reference to the genus of host trees upon which this bracket fungus is most commonly found.

Identification guide

Infertile upper surface of Lenzites betulina

Fruitbody

Many-zoned, often reddish fan-like brackets, up to 10 cm across and 1 to 2 cm thick at the point of attachment; usually in tiers. The gills are white at first, turning brown with age; well-spaced or fairly close; sharp-edged; tough; up to 1 cm deep.

 

Spores

Cylindrical, smooth, 5-6 x 2-3µm; inamyloid.

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive

Habitat & Ecological role

On living or dead hardwood trees, particularly birch.

Season

All through the year, but shedding spores in autumn.

Similar species

Trametes versicolor, Turkeytail, has pores rather than gills.

Culinary Notes

The Birch Mazegill is tough and inedible.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 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.

Other web pages about this species

Roger Phillips (UK)

Michael Kuo (USA)

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Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd edn, hardback

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