Public Description of Ganoderma applanatum (Pers.) Pat.

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Name: Ganoderma applanatum (Pers.) Pat.
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 Draft For 2008/2009 Eol University Species Pages Initiative By Kayla Simonson (Private)
 Draft For Wild Mushrooms Of The Northeastern United States By Erlon Bailey (Private)
 Draft For Polypore Project By Chaelthomas (Private)
 Draft For Macrofungi Of The Pacific Northwest By Chaelthomas (Private)

Description status: Unreviewed

Taxonomic Classification:

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

General Description:

G. applanatum is known as a conk, which is a general term for a fungus that destroys wood. It is a called a white rot fungus due to its ability to digest the brown lignin in a tree as food source and leave behind the white cellulose.

G. applanatum, appropriately dubbed a shelf fungus due to the shape, is a fan-shaped polypore that can range from 30-70 cm long, making it very noticeable in the woods. It has a thick, hard, lumpy, brown top with several radiating zones. The spore surface is ochre in color, unless scratched off in which case the spore surface becomes brown. The pores of the spore surface are tiny and regular in shape.

Each year, G. applanatum creates a new pore surface, giving it a “stacked” appearance.

Its common name is the artist’s conk because of the pictures one can draw when the white pore surface is scratched to reveal a brown color.

See Tom Volk’s page on Ganoderma applanatum

Diagnostic Description:

G. applanatum (above) has thick, double-walled brown spores that range from 6-9 X 4-7 micrometers. Often times, the pore surface cracks and sheds thousands of the brown spores, which can often blow onto the top of the pileus in large numbers. The pore surface is white and rubs off easily, leaving the brown hyphae exposed below the scratch.

Ganoderma species are different from other shelf fungi in that Ganoderma has a dimitic hyphal structure, thick double-walled brown spores, and causes white rot on trees.

Ganoderma applanatum is related to Ganoderma lucidum, but G. lucidum has a shiny pileus surface.


G. applanatum lives throughout the entire year and is common throughout North America and Canada. It actually can be found in every state and province in North America.


G. applanatum is located in wooded areas on hardwoods and conifers. It is typically found on the base and up to the middle of the tree.

Look Alikes:

Ganoderma brownii is found in California. It is very similar to G. applanatum, differing in only a few spore characteristics and geography.


Ganoderma applanatum has an ecological role. As a parasite, G. applanatum continues to digest the tree’s lignin. It can also grow as a saprophyte for many years. Lignin functions in water conduction and due to its hydrophobic properties, stops the tree from absorbing too much water. Since much of the tree’s lignin is used as food, G. applanatum weakens the tree.

Some fungi are edible and delicious. On the other hand, others are poisonous and toxic. While G. applanatum is probably not poisonous or toxic, it cannot really be considered edible due to the hyphae being too thick to consume.

The major function for G. applanatum is its ability to be used as a canvas. I am sure that it is not as often used to sketch on as it once was, but since it’s spore surface is easy to scratch off, drawings or writings can be created on it. Since this can occur, this fungus is called the artist’s conk.

Ganoderma art from

G. applanatum photograph is coppyright to Tom Volk.
G. lucidium photograph is coppyright to Josef Hlasek

Kayla Simonson
UW- La Crosse Mycology


Its common name is the artist’s conk because of the pictures one can draw when the white pore surface is scratched to reveal a brown color.

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