Public Description of Pycnoporus cinnabarinus (Jacq.) P. Karst.

Title: Public Description
Name: Pycnoporus cinnabarinus (Jacq.) P. Karst.
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Description status: Unreviewed

Taxonomic Classification:

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

General Description:

Pycnoporus cinnabarinus is a wood-rotting fungus that forms a reddish-orange fruit body with spore-releasing pores on its undersurface. It is specifically a white rot fungus, meaning that it breaks down both cellulose and lignin in the cell walls of its host’s wood. It is also one of the three species belonging to the genus Pycnoporus, first formalized by P. Karsten in 1881. While Karsten initially only included P. cinnabarinus in Pycnoporus, mycologists have since added P. sanguineus and P. cossineus for a total of three species in the genus. Common fruit-body characteristics among these three species include growing in a semi-circular (half a circle) or amorphous-elongated shape, attaching to tree or log exteriors, growing hyphae of varying degrees of branching and wall thickness within a single fruit body, and forming pileus that ranges in color from a reddish-apricot color to a deep red-orange. Members of this genus are included in the Polyporaceae family but separated from the Polyporus genus. As a white rot fungus, P. cinnabarinus lives as a detritivore on hard wood trees, degrading cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin found in cell wood walls. P. cinnabarinus occurs across the entire northern hemisphere in the north temperate zone, extending from central American & and north African latitudes to mid-Canada and northern Russia, and so can therefore withstand freezing temperatures. However, its growth rate is shown to decline significantly at temperatures above 30, and it is not found in tropical zones. The fruit body releases spores in the autumn and spring and can survive over the winter. Like all bracket fungi, P. cinnabarinus is believed to enter its hosts though injuries and other weak surface areas. P. cinnabarinus, however, is usually found on the dead hard-wood of deciduous trees and rarely on the dead wood of conifers.

Diagnostic Description:

Among its close relatives, P. cinnabarinus distinguishes itself in its geographical range, morphology, and physiology. For the most part, P. cinnabarinus is the only Pycnoporus species found in the northern temperate zone. Its close relative and look-alike, P. sanguineus, on the other hand, occurs in tropical and sub-tropical zones, just below the geographic range of P. cinnabarinus. Naturally, however, these two species can overlap do some degree in their distribution. In such cases, P. cinnabarinus can be distinguished by its color, hyphae, and spores. Generally, the fruit body of P. cinnabarinus has a consistent light reddish-apricot color and is semi-circular in its shape. The color of P. cinnabarinus fruit body, however, tends to fade relatively quicker than that of its close relatives. The variety of reddish-orange colors is one of the main characteristics that distinguishes the Pycnoporus genus within the Polyporaceae family. Apart from its color, other notable characteristics of the mature fruit body include its semi-circular to amorphous-elongated shape with moderately wide dimensions, measuring at approximately 10.0-13.0 × 6.0-8.0 centimeters with a thickness of approximately 1-2.5 centimeters. The underside of the fruit body has a pore density of about 3-4 per millimeter and discharges spores measuring approximately 6-8 × 2-3 μ. And finally, P. cinnabarinus remains unique in the Pycnoporus genus because of its chemical wood-rotting properties. As a white rot fungus, P. cinnabarinus obtains its source of carbon by degrading the complex organic substrates-cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin-that comprise the wood of most woody plants. White-Rot fungi typically utilize a combination of three extracellular oxidative enzymes in order to break down the tough components of wood-Lignin Peroxidase, Manganese Peroxidase, and Laccases. P. cinnabarinus is unusual among the white-rot fungi and unique within the Pycnoporus genus in that it primarily produces only laccases as its enzymatic degrader.


P. cinnabarinus settles on the dead wood of hardwood, deciduous trees, though they can also settle on dead conifers on rare occasions. Specific tree genera that have been observed to host P. cinnabarinus include Alder, Hickory, Chestnut, Ash, Walnut, Poplar, Nyssa, Maple, Oak, Birch, Beech, Prunus, Pear, Willow, Fir, Spruce, Pine, Thuga, and Tsuga. P. cinnabarinus remains widespread, but not common, across the entire northern hemisphere in the north temperate zone, occurring throughout the majority of North America and virtually in every U.S. state. However, it has been sighted in the southern hemisphere, in parts of Australia as well as South East Asia.

Look Alikes:

Species of the genus, Pycnoporus have similar features in that they are all porous, bracket, white-rot fungi with reddish-orangish coloring. For this reason, the three species comprising this genus- P. cinnabarinus, P. sanguineus, and P. cossineus- can sometimes be difficult to distinguish based solely on visual observation. The original technique used to confirm the distinct identities of these three species involved cross-cultural examinations of different spore cultures and the detection of clamping occurring between the two strains. If clamping does occur, then the two separate populations are deemed identical, whereas if clamping does not occur the two populations are considered distinct species. Without this method or more advanced genetic comparisons, some habitat and morphological traits can be used to distinguish the three species. Across the globe, the three species generally remain geographically isolated, with the exception of the overlap of P. cinnabarinus and P. sanguineus across the boundary of the temperate and tropical zones. While P. cinnabarinus and P. sanguineus naturally occur in the temperate and tropical/subtropical zones respectively, P. cossineus is native to the south temperate zone and in countries that border the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In terms of morphological differences, however, the three species can also be partially distinguished. Looking at the thickness of fruit bodies in the species, it is generally observed that P. cinnabarinus is thickest with a range of 1-2.5 centimeters, followed by P. cossineus with a range of .3-1.0 centimeters, and then P. sanguineus with the thinnest range at 3-4 millimeters. In terms of color P. sanguineus generally tends toward displaying a more vibrant, intense red rather than the mild orangish-red of P. cinnabarinus and P. cossineus. And while P. cinnabarinus and P. cossineus can resemble each other in color and thickness, the latter has been found to have a softer, more velvety upper surface, as well as an underside with a pore density of about 6-8 pores per millimeter as opposed to 3-4 with P. cinnabarinus


Because of its unusual behavior in degrading lignin primarily with laccases, as opposed to a combination of laccases and other common white-rot enzymes, P. cinnabarinus has become a model organism for studying the practical uses of lignin degrading organisms in bioremediation. Many organopollutants share physical and chemical properties with that of lignin, and so the white rot fungi as a group have the potential to play a major role in the bioremediation of hazardous or long-lasting pollutants such as munitions waste, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic, aromatic, hydrocarbons, bleach plant effluent, synthetic, dyes, synthetic polymers, and wood preservatives. Among these potential uses for white-rot fungi, experiments have tested the potential of P. cinnabarinus laccases as a transformer of synthetic dyes. Because excess dye products often end up in the environment, where they potentially damage eco-systems and only slowly degrade, fungi such as P. cinnabarinus may present a natural solution. The use of microorganisms in bioremediation, however, usually presents a new set of challenges. For example, a major challenge in bioremediation projects is that of sustaining metabolic activity on a large, productive scale while minimizing costs and inefficiency. Therefore, further studies and trials will be required before many white-rot fungi, including P. cinnabarinus, can realize their potential as bioremediators.


Gilbertson, R.L. & Ryvarden, L. North American Polypores. Fungliflora. Oslo, Norway. 1986. Text

Kuhad, R.C. & Singh, Ajay (Editors). Lignocellulose Biotechnology: Future Prospects. I.K. International Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, India. 2007. Google Text.

Madhosingh, Clarence. Physiological Studies on the Pycnoporus Species. Canadian Journal of Botany. Volume 40 (1962)

Nobles, M.K., & Few, B. P. Studies in Wood-Inhaviting Hymenomycetes V. The Genus Pycnoporus Karst. Canadian Journal of Botany. Vol. 40. 1962

Nobles, M. K. Studies in Forest Pathology. VI. Identification of Cultures of Wood-rotting Fungi. Canadian Journal of Research (Section C). (1948) 26: 3

Pointing, S. B. Feasibility of bioremediation by white-rot fungi. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2001) 57:20-33

Schwarze, Francis W. M. R.; Engels, Julia; Mattheck, Claus. Fungal Strategies of Wood Decay in Trees. Springer. Berlin, Germany. 2000. Text


This fungus is inedible.

Some of the previously used names for P. cinnabarinus include the following three names:

Polyporus cinnabarinus
Trametes cinnabarinus
Boletus cinnabarinus

Description author: John Aloian  (Request Authorship Credit)
Description editor: Nathan Wilson

Created: 2010-10-30 15:22:42 PDT (-0700) by John Aloian (jaloian)
Last modified: 2012-01-16 08:22:12 PST (-0800) by John Aloian (jaloian)
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