A little over a month ago, the Woodswife and I collected some birch polypore mushrooms (piptoporus betulinus) from a small dead birch tree in the forest. This mushroom grows on dead or weakened birch trees and features a whitish or brownish cap and a yellowish pore surface.
I let the mushrooms dry out for a few weeks and then shaved off the outer “skin” on the top and cut off the tissue where the spores grow on the underside. This revealed the “meat” of the mushroom, which exhibits some very interesting properties. It feels kind of like velvety cork or some kind of high-strength, lightweight material conjured up in a NASA laboratory.
I cut off a small piece and lit it with a match to see how it would burn. Rather than burning with a flame, the mushroom burned with more of a “jet” effect, as though some gases were being released and burned. I found this very interesting. It also burned somewhat slowly, so I think there’s good fire-lighting potential there. Speaking of fire-lighting, I have read that if it is charred in the same way that charcloth is made, birch polypore will take a spark from a flint and steel pretty easily. I’ll have to try it!
A little Internet research has turned up some other interesting uses of this mushroom. A strip of the inner flesh can be cut out and used as a blade strop (hence the nickname “razor strop fungus”). A strip of this flesh can also be effectively used as a band-aid/plaster for external wounds thanks to the fungus’ antiseptic properties. This fungus is also said to be anti-parasitic, especially against intestinal parasites (when boiled in water, and the water drunk when cool). Just like chaga, birch polypore contains betulinic acid, which is claimed to be a cancer-fighting agent (Note: This information is NOT being provided as medical advice. It is for educational purposes only. As always, be sure to research wild foods and medicines on your own and be 100% sure of what you are doing.).
I never get tired of learning about little gems of nature like this. If you know of any other uses for this mushroom, I’d be interested to hear them!