Polypores are a group of tough, leathery poroid mushrooms similar to boletes, but typically lacking a distinct stalk. The technical distinction between the two types of mushrooms is that polypores do not have the spore-bearing tissue continuous along the entire underside of the mushroom. Many polypores are bracket fungi. The polypore growth form exists in many different evolutionary lines of higher basidiomycetes. Although many polypore species are Polyporales
The Polyporales are an order of fungi in the class Agaricomycetes. The order includes some polypores as well as many corticioid fungi and a few agarics . Species within the order are saprotrophic, most of them wood-rotters...
, many belong to other groups.
Polypores are often found on rotting logs. They are so resistant to rot that they often last long enough for moss to grow on them. Their rot-resistance is due to the mushroom's ability to produce compounds with anti-pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...
GeneraGenerally, this family includes thirty genera.
Medicinal usesEdible polypores are commonly found in nature and according to mycologist Steve Brill, there are no reports of poisonous species. Some polypores have been used in ritual and for utilitarian purposes for ages; the famous Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman , Similaun Man, and Man from Hauslabjoch are modern names for a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,300 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the...
was found carrying two different polypore species, Piptoporus betulinus which was notable for its antibacterial properties, and Fomes fomentarius
Fomes fomentarius is a species of fungal plant pathogen found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America...
, which, although also having medicinal properties, was likely used for starting fires.
Two medicinal mushroom
Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms, or mushroom extracts, that are used or studied as possible treatments for diseases. Lentinula edodes , Grifola frondosa , Ganoderma lucidum , and Cordyceps, have a history of medicinal use spanning millennia in parts of Asia...
polypores in use today are Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi or Lingzhi) and Trametes versicolor
Trametes versicolor — formerly known as Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor — is an extremely common polypore mushroom which can be found throughout the world. Versicolor means 'of several colours' and it is true that this mushroom is found in a wide variety of different colours. T...
. Beyond their traditional use in herbal medicine
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, herblore, and phytotherapy...
, contemporary research has suggested many applications of polypores for the treatment of illnesses related to the immune system
An immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own...
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...
In studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, some polypore mushrooms have been found to be useful in treating a wide variety of ailments, including bacterial infections, viral infections, cancer, allergies, diabetes mellitus, and neurological problems.