Public Description of Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd

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Name: Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd
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 Draft For 2008/2009 Eol University Species Pages Initiative By Matthewfoltz (Private)
 Draft For Wild Mushrooms Of The Northeastern United States By Erlon Bailey (Private)

Description status: Unreviewed

Taxonomic Classification:

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Polyporales
Family: Polyporaceae

General Description:

Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920)

Commonly known as the Turkey Tail. This shelf-fungus has small, thin, and leathery overlapping stalkless caps with multicolored concentric zones that alternate between smooth and hairy. It has a white pore surface. The tough basidiocarps will persist overwinter and can be found year-round on dead hardwood logs and stumps.

Also known as Polyporus versicolor and Coriolus versicolor

See Tom Volk’s page on Trametes versicolor

Diagnostic Description:

Cap: 2-10cm wide; usually overlapping or in a row or a rosette; kidney shaped, also described as fan shaped, sometimes fused laterally; can be flat to wavy; multicolored concentric zoning on the upper surface; zones alternate between velvety and smooth; color varies quite a bit, shades of brown, orange, tan, and gray are the most common, and colors alternate light and dark; flesh is leathery, 1-3mm thick; caps are stalkless.

Pore surface: whitish-gray; normally 3-5 pores per mm; pores are angular to circular; tubes are 1-2 mm long.

Spores: spores 5-6 × 1.5-2um; cylindrical to sausage-shaped; smooth; hyaline. Spore print is white.

Hyphal system: trimitic; generative hyphae are thin-walled with clamps, 2.5-3 um in diameter; skeletal hyphae thick-walled, nonseptate, 4-6 um in diameter; binding hyphae are also thick-walled, nonseptate, heavily branched, 2-4 um in diameter.

Sexuality: Heterothallic

Type of rot: White


One of the most widespread mushrooms in the world. Found throughout North America and most other countries.


Saprophyte, on dead deciduous wood, sometimes on coniferous wood as well.

Look Alikes:

Stereum ostrea looks very similar from the top, but has a smooth hymenophore (lacks pores).

Stereum ostrea photo courtesy of Dr. Tom Volk

Trametes hirsuta has a densely hairy, grayish-white cap.

Trametes velutina is thicker and has a smoky colored pore surface.

Trametes ochracea is very similar, but has only brown colors in its concentric zones on the cap.

Trametes versicolor is likely a species complex, consisting of several cryptic (hidden) species. More work needs to be done.


One of the best documented medicinal mushrooms, T. versicolor contains antitumor compounds (including the commercial drug PSK) that inhibit growth of cancer cells, and also stimulate the immune system to increase production of cytotoxic T cells (Garcia-Lora et al., 2001). PSK also has potent anti-microbial activity against microbes like Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Candida albicans (Tsukagoshi et al., 1984; Sakagami et al., 1991).

It has been especially useful in fighting hormone-responsive cancers like prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women by inhibiting enzymes (5-alpha-reductase and aromatase, respectively) in the biosynthesis pathways of testosterone and estrogen (Chen et al., 1997).

It’s important to note that this mushroom is relatively simple to culture, and that the medically useful compounds can be extracted not only from the fruiting body, but from the mycelia as well.

Extracts from this mushroom have also been shown to cause selective apoptosis in cancer cells but not in healthy cells (Fisher et al., 2003).

While this mushroom is too tough and leathery to enjoy eating, most of its medicinal compounds are water soluble and can be extracted by cooking in soups or steeping in hot water to make tea.

T. versicolor is also being used for a variety of mycoremediation and mycofiltration projects to break down different toxins and clean up the environment.

T. versicolor is the focus of a spectacular array of studies showing that the secondary metabolites from it’s mycelium—its laccases and oxidized lignin peroxidases— are highly effective in breaking down PAHs including antracines (Johannes et al., 1996); Field et al., 1992), pyrenes, fluorine (Sack and Gunther 1993), methoxybenzenes (Kersten et al. 1990), and styrene (Milstein et al. 1992). These compounds could also aid in the destruction of dimethylmethylphosphonates (nerve toxins) and even the bleaching of pulp (Katagiri et al. 1995). Arica and other researchers (2003) found that the heat-killed mycelium of T. versicolor could selectively absorb mercuric ions from aquatic systems, making this mushroom potentially useful for mycofiltration of mercury.” — Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.

Because of its aesthetically pleasing appearance, dried specimens are sometimes used for decoration, especially in floral arrangements.


Arica, M.Y., C. Arpa, B. Kaya, S. Bektas, A. Denizli, & O. Genc. 2003. “Comparative biosorption of mercuric ions from aquatic systems by immobilized live and heat-inactivated Trametes versicolor and Pleurotus sajor-caju.” Bioresource Technology 89(2): 145-154.

Arora, D. Mushrooms Demystified. Ten Speed Press. Berkeley, CA. 1986.

Bessette, A.E., A.R. Bessette, & D.W. Fisher. Mushrooms of Northeastern North America. Syracuse University Press. Syracuse, NY. 1997.

Chen, S., Y.C. Kao, & C.A. Laughton. 1997. “Binding characteristics of aromatase inhibitors and phytoestrogens to human aromatase.” The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 61:107-115.

Field, J.A., E. de Jong, G. Costa Feijoo, & J.A. de Bont. 1992. “Biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by new isolates of white rot fungi.” Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology 589(7): 2219-2226.

Fisher, M., J. Jun, H.J. Wang, J. Chevrier, & L.X. Yang. 2003. “In vitro cytotoxic and pro-apoptotic effects of Coriolus versicolor preperation on human carcinoma cell lines.” San Francisco, California: Radiology Laboratory, St. Mary’s Medical Center, California Pacific Medical Research Institute. (via Paul Stamets — Mycelium Running)

Garcia-Lora, A., S. Pedrinaci, & F. Garrido, 2001. “Protein bound polysaccharide K and interleukin-2 regulate different nuclear transcription factors in the NKL human natural killer cell line” Cancer Immunology & Immunotherapy. June., 50(4): 191-198.

Gilbertson, R.L., & L. Ryvarden. North American Polypores. Fungiflora. Oslo, Norway. 1987.

Johannes, C., A. Majacherczyk, & A. Huttermann. 1996. “Degradation of anthracene by laccase of Trametes versicolor in the presence of different mediator compounds.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. 46(3): 313-317.

Katagiri, N., Y. Tsutsumi, & T. Nishida. 1995. “Correlation of brightening with cumulative enzyme activity related to lignin biodegradation during biobleaching of kraft pulp by white rot fungi in the solid-state fermentation system.” Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology 61(2): 617-622.

Kersten, P.J., B. Kalyanaraman, K.E. Hammel, B. Reinhammar, & T.K. Kirk. 1990. “Comparison of lignin peroxidases, horseradish peroxidases and laccase in the oxidation of methoxybenzenes.” Journal of Biochemistry 268(2): 475-480.

Lincoff, G.H. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York, NY. 1995.

Milstein, O., R. Gersonde, A. Huttermann, M.J. Chen, & J.J. Meister. 1992. “Fungal biodegradation of lignopolystyrene graft polymers.” Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology 58(10): 3225-3232.

Sack, U., & T. Gunther. 1993. “Metabolism of PAH by fungi and correlation with extracellular enzymatic activities.” Journal of Basic Microbiology 33(4): 269-277.

Sakagami, H., T. Aoki, A. Simpson, & S.I. Tanuma, 1991. “Induction of immunopotentiation activity by a protein-bound polysaccharide, PSK” Anticancer Research, 11:993-1000.

Stamets, P., & C.D.W. Yao. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. MycoMedia Productions. Olympia, WA. 2002.

Stamets, P. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. Ten Speed Press. Berkely, CA. 2005.

Matthew Foltz
UW-La Crosse Mycology
November 2008


“Common Name: Turkey Tail”

Also known as Polyporus versicolor and Coriolus versicolor

Current Name:
Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd, Mycol. Notes (Cincinnati) 65: 1045 (1921) 1920

Agarico-suber versicolor (L.) Paulet, Traité Champ., Atlas 2: 1-476 (1793)
Agaricus versicolor (L.) Lam., Encycl. Méth. Bot. (Paris) 1(1): 50 (1783)
Bjerkandera versicolor (L.) P. Karst., Acta Soc. Fauna Flora fenn. 2(no. 1): 30 (1881)
Boletus versicolor L., Sp. pl. 2: 1176 (1753)
Boletus versicolor L., Sp. pl. 2: 1176 (1753) var. versicolor
Coriolus versicolor (L.) Quél., Enchir. fung. (Paris): 175 (1886)
Hansenia versicolor (L.) P. Karst., Meddn Soc. Fauna Flora fenn. 5: 40 (1879)
Microporus fuscatus (Fr.) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. (Leipzig) 3(2): 496 (1898)
Microporus nigricans (Lasch) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. (Leipzig) 3(2): 496 (1898)
Microporus versicolor (L.) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. (Leipzig) 3(2): 497 (1898)
Ochroporus nigricans (Fr.) Fiasson & Niemelä, Karstenia 24(1): 26 (1984)
Polyporus fuscatus Fr., Observ. mycol. (Havniae) 2: 259 (1818)
Polyporus nigricans Lasch, in Rabenhorst, Fungi europ. exsicc. 4: no. 15 (1859)
Polyporus versicolor (L.) Fr., Observ. mycol. (Havniae) 2: 260 (1818)
Polyporus versicolor var. fuscatus (Fr.) Fr., Syst. mycol. (Lundae) 1: 369 (1821)
Polyporus versicolor var. nigricans Fr., Hymenomyc. eur. (Upsaliae): 568 (1874)
Polystictus fuscatus (Fr.) Cooke, Grevillea 14(no. 71): 83 (1886)
Polystictus nigricans (Lasch) Cooke, Grevillea 11(no. 59): 92 (1883)
Polystictus versicolor (L.) Fr., Nov. Symb. Myc.: 86 (1851)
Polystictus versicolor var. fuscatus (Fr.) Rea, Brit. basidiomyc. (Cambridge): 609 (1922)
Polystictus versicolor var. nigricans (Lasch) Rea, Brit. basidiomyc. (Cambridge): 609 (1922)
Poria versicolor (L.) Scop., Fl. carniol., Edn 2 (Wien) 2: 468, 592 (1772)
Sistotrema versicolor (L.) Tratt., Fungi austr. 2: 55 (1830)
Trametes versicolor (L.) Pilát, in Kavina & Pilát, Atlas Champ. l’Europe (Praha) 3: 261 (1939)
Trametes versicolor f. fuscata (Fr.) Domański, Orloś & Skirg., Flora Polska. Grzyby, II: 221 (1967)

Description authors: Tom Volk, matthewfoltz (Request Authorship Credit)
Description editors: Nathan Wilson, IntoTheFlames, walt sturgeon