The Artist's Bracket (Ganoderma applanatum)

At first glance, this mushroom doesn't look very striking, and you'd be forgiven for passing it by. It is a lumpy brown bracket fungus that grows on both living and dead trees on every continent except Antarctica. It is not edible (unless you are a gorilla), it is not used in folk medicine, so why should anyone be interested in it?

 

Well, the clue is in the name. The top of this bracket may be brown, but underneath is a creamy white and can be scratched with a stick or your nail to leave marks. The marks will eventually disappear as the fungi continues to grow, but if you remove the bracket from the tree, the marks will become permanent.
A quick Internet search of this fungus brings up many beautiful examples of its artistic use. I also know of foragers who like to leave notes and pictures for others to find on their walks. I myself was excited to find a bracket that was new to me, but had been previously written on by my friend, as evidenced by his name being doodled on it!


This fungus is also a firm favourite with children, who will enjoy the novelty of being able to draw on something in the wild; and as such is one of the more engaging mushrooms available to find. At age 5 my daughter found one local to our house and had a scribble. She would check back to see the progress of her picture fading with time. I also recall being out on a solo forage and trying to knock one off an old tree stump. A child of about 10 came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him about the artistic use of the fungus and that I wanted to take a piece home with me. The child was pretty intrigued and asked to have a go at it when I had broken a piece off. He drew a heart on it, I drew my daughter's name on it, and we parted ways. I still have that little bracket and I remember that encounter with fondness.


As a way of getting people, especially children, engaging with and caring about fungi, then the Artist's Bracket has got to be one of the most important mushrooms out there. Maybe you'll think differently the next time you pass one by?

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