Observation 72494: Phellinus igniarius (L.) Quél.

When: 2011-07-03

Collection location: Mellen, Ashland Co., Wisconsin, USA [Click for map]

Who: arebella (arebella)

Specimen available

I was walking in the woods looking for a Chaga. That’s about it!

I went out to get this mushroom as a favor to my cousin who is studying to be an herbalist in California. She was visiting Wisconsin and I said I’d look for stuff at my in-law’s woods during the holiday. I’d bring back what I could find.

Knowing what I know now, that was almost an impossible mission and I have no idea how I could have possibly found this thing and why I turned down the trail I did at the exact time I did. It was in a deciduous forest in northern Wisconsin in an area where there are mainly yellow and sweet birch (black birch), maple, oak, pine and evergreens.

At the time, I just wanted to confirm it, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find it again and the mosquitoes were all over me. I saw it on the back side of a sweet birch that had a damaged area, it was right next to a tiny little stream, so it took a little balancing so I didn’t fall in. I grabbed a rock and hit the Chaga. The rock bounced off. They are solidly on the trees, are hard, but the inner “cork” leaves them pliable so they have some give to them. I was able to break it cleanly from the tree and bring it back to my in-law’s house.

The family was not impressed and it was aptly named “the turd”. I took pictures of the turd, posted to my cousin who wasn’t sure exactly if I got what she thought it was.

I was certain after seeing it on Roger’s Mushrooms. Then I realized what I did. It was still alive, with a fruiting body on it. I killed the mushroom.

According to Roger’s and other sites and books… this grows on 1 in 15,000 birch trees. The fruiting body is rarely found as it normally drops off. A Chaga grows on birch trees that have a damaged area and are going to die anyway. This Chaga was on the tree for quite a while, but would have been on it for a lot longer.

It really didn’t have much of a smell to it. My cousin said it smelled like medicine to her. I don’t have a good sense of smell. The fruiting body was very cool to the touch and was like suede. It was a dark yellow ochre on one small section of it and the rest was a chocolate brown. It was good enough to eat. As the days went on, it look distressed and was turning out what looked like white spores on the surface. It was still cool, but didn’t look healthy. The remainder was fine and was dry. You may see in some pictures the change to the surface.

I went back up the hill, took my husband with me and we braved the mosquitoes again. I had him hold the Chaga against the tree, right where it was when I took it off, just to show how it was placed when it was alive. Surprisingly at my reach. So, maybe it was fate I found it.

My cousin has it and is making a tincture from it. The final weight was over 2 lbs. Probably enough Chaga for the rest of my days. She did manage to get it on a plane back to California, so I was glad my “turd” wasn’t confiscated. I didn’t want it to go, but I did finally let it be. Next time, if there is a next time I will just observe.


Side view with flash. Right side has the fruiting body attached. Full length is 8-1/2" long
Left side has fruiting body
Found in northern Wisconsin on a Sweet Birch (Black Birch).

Proposed Names

-84% (3)
Recognized by sight
Used references: Roger’s Mushrooms

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Eye3 = Observer’s choice
Eyes3 = Current consensus


Add Comment
By: Drew Parker (mycotrope)
2011-07-23 23:33:00 EDT (-0400)

(Inonotus obliquus) has two forms. The “imperfect” form is what is seen on living trees as a dark, cracked, clinker like eruption that doesn’t produce viable spores. The “perfect” form, with pores is produced under the bark after the tree dies and does produce basidiospores (from Fungi of Switzerland – Breitenbach & Kränzlin).

Let it go arebella. We’ve all been there.

Interesting & Embarassed! Shows what I know! :)
By: arebella (arebella)
2011-07-23 23:01:27 EDT (-0400)

No argument here! Now, I have to break the news to the cousin. It does appear that this has some of the same properties as the Chaga, but without the same cachet as the Chaga gets.

Not chaga
By: Darvin DeShazer (darv)
2011-07-23 19:41:03 EDT (-0400)

Chaga is NOT a mushroom and does NOT have a pore surface. It is a growth caused by a fungus, but it does not make spores. This photo is a spore making fungus.

Here are some photos of Chaga here on MO

Created: 2011-07-23 17:41:56 EDT (-0400)
Last modified: 2011-07-23 23:15:38 EDT (-0400)
Viewed: 237 times, last viewed: 2018-08-13 20:21:25 EDT (-0400)
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