Phaeolus schweinitzii is a common polypore that parasitizes conifer trees. Around the bases of its victims, it produces medium-sized to large mushrooms in overlapping rosettes resembling haphazardly stacked dinner plates. The mushrooms are brown and fuzzy in the center and yellow around the edges. P. schweinitzii attacks the roots and lower trunk of older trees, making them more likely to fall in a storm. Although it routinely causes headaches for foresters and homeowners alike, people in the mushroom dyeing community covet this fungus. It dyes wool various shades from bright yellow to dark green, which earned it the common name “the Dyer’s Polypore.” Other common names used for P. schweinitzii are “Velvet-Top Fungus” and “Dyer’s Mazegill” (British).
Tagged: arts and crafts
artistic uses for fungi
“Our next contestant in the Ugly Mushroom Contest performs countless of hours of community service every year and is an accomplished artist. Its goal in life is to make the world a better place and form lasting relationships with those around it. Give it up for…Pisolithus arrhizus! [applause]” There seems to be little doubt among mushroom hunters that P. arrhizus is one of the ugliest mushrooms in the world. The fruiting bodies of older specimens become distorted and can be mistaken for anything from animal feces to decomposing tree stumps. Despite its unsightly appearance, this earthball is used to dye wool, thus earning it the common name, “Dyeball.” The fungus is also prized by foresters for its ability to form robust mycorrhizas in extremely poor soil conditions.
Boletinellus merulioides is an odd mushroom, both in appearance and ecology. The Ash Tree Bolete can be readily identified by its tube surface – which is only a few millimeters thick and looks more like a network of ridges – and by the fact that it fruits under only ash trees. B. merulioides appears under ash because it has a unique symbiotic relationship with a pest of ash trees: the Leafcurl Ash Aphid.
Fomes fomentarius is the Swiss army knife of the mushroom world: it has a variety of uses that are important in many different contexts. It is used by survivalists, fly fishermen, and even some hat makers. Although it isn’t edible, the mushroom is considered medicinal. Humans have used F. fomentarius for well over 5,000 years (more about that later) and probably much longer than that. The polypore grows from dead or dying trees and is shaped like a slightly irregular horse’s hoof. It has a variety of common names, which is not surprising when you consider its many uses. The two most widely used names are “Tinder Polypore” and “Hoof Fungus.”
Hapalopilus nidulans is small, drab, polypore that most people overlook. However, this humble mushroom is remarkable for two reasons: it is poisonous and it produces a lovely purple dye. It is an uncommon mushroom, which reduces the likelihood of someone eating it but also means people working with mushroom dyes never have enough of it. This mushroom appears on decomposing wood in North America and Europe.
Chlorociboria spp. include some of my favorite fungi. Although you don’t see their mushrooms very often, it is quite common to find pieces of wood that have been stained blue-green by Chlorociboria mycelium. This attractive and unusual coloration earned these fungi many common names, including “Green Stain Fungus,” “Blue Stain Fungus,” “Turquoise Elfcup,” and various combinations and derivatives of those. I enjoy finding the stained wood, especially during dry periods or over the winter, when mushrooms are scarce.
Natural dyes come from many sources: plants, animals, and even fungi. Historically, lichens were used to achieve certain colors, including purples and reds. Techniques for lichen dying have been around for thousands of years. Surprisingly, using mushrooms to dye fibers was first developed in 1972! The procedure for mushroom dyeing was developed by Miriam C. Rice, who I have previously mentioned as the inventor of mushroom papermaking (FFF#084). The procedure for mushroom dyeing is pretty much the same as when using other natural dyes: treat the fibers with a mordant, cook the fibers with the dye, and rinse the fibers.
Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. “Our next contestant in the Ugly Mushroom contest performs thousands of hours of community service every year and is an accomplished artist. Its goal in life is to make the world a better place and form lasting relationships with those around it. Give it up for…Pisolithus arrhizus! [applause]” There seems to be little doubt among people that arrhizus is one of the ugliest mushrooms in the world. The fruiting bodies of older specimens become distorted and can be mistaken for anything from animal poop to decomposing tree stumps. Despite its unsightly appearance, this earthball can be used to dye wool, thus earning it the common name, “Dyeball.” The fungus is also prized by gardeners and foresters for its ability to form robust mycorrhizae in extremely poor soil conditions.
Ganoderma applanatum is unique among fungi in that it is primarily used by humans as an artistic medium. This large, woody bracket fungus features a flat, rapidly-staining, white pore surface, which readily becomes a natural canvas for an artist. By lightly scratching the pore surface, an artist can produce beautiful sketches without using a pen, pencil, or paint. The pores stop growing once the mushroom is removed from its substrate, so the stains remain on the pore surface. Conks produced by applanatum are woody and therefore decay very slowly. As a result, artwork produced on the Artist’s Conk can last for many years when kept indoors.