Phaeolus schweinitzii (Dennenvoetzwam (BE) / Dyer's polypore or velvet-top fungus (EN) / Kiefern-Braunporling (DE) / Phéole de Schweinitz (FR)) is a fungus in the Fomitopsidaceae family. This mushroom is a classic "butt rot" fungus, attacking trees through their roots and producing decay in the root system and the heartwood of the lower portion of the tree (up to about 10 or 20 feet above ground). In brown rot the fungus digests mostly cellulose and leaves the lignin behind. Because cellulose is part of the structure that holds adjacent plant cells together, the wood loses strength quickly and the tree may break. The result is a weakened, or even hollow, tree base--which makes the tree more susceptible to windthrow.
The conks can be found on the base of conifers (such as Douglas-fir and Pine) or on the ground growing up from the roots near the tree. The fungus can be spread from tree to tree by the production of abundant basidiospores, and the mycelium can also grow through the soil. Since we don't see what goes on underground, it might be surprising to find out that adjacent trees often share roots, which facilitates easy movement of the fungal mycelium between trees.
The genus name Phaeolus means dark or obscure, referring to its dark brown color when mature. The species was named in honor of American mycologist Lewis David von Schweinitz, thus the species epithet of schweinitizii, meaning "of Schweinitz."
This species is also an excellent natural source of green, yellow, gold, or brown dye, depending on the material dyed and the mordant used.
Image: Kalmthout (BE) - 01/10/2010
© Johan Dierckx
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