The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 21, 2001


Biodiversity Corner:
Turkey Tail

In an effort to report something seasonal, I searched for holly and ivy but found none occurring naturally. I considered the partridge-berry which is common in the woods in Carlisle. (The partridge needs a lot of sustenance to maintain a healthy appearance for the twelve days of Christmas.) I also considered the reindeer lichen which is widespread, but I found only very meager clumps which would barely sustain a small reindeer on appetite suppressants. I would have been happy to have spotted a wild turkey ­ I saw one last year ­ but could find only turkey tails.

Name: Turkey Tail or Trametes versicolor (aka Coriolus versicolor)

Where seen: Very common throughout the woods in Carlisle on hardwood logs and stumps. These ones were found in the Towle Woods.

Distinguishing characteristics: The caps of this polypore bracket fungus can be up to 4 inches wide, with a velvety surface and obvious concentric bands of contrasting colors in gold, browns, grays and orange that resemble the tail of a strutting turkey. You can often find beautiful rosettes of overlapping clusters. Like many bracket fungi, the spore-bearing surfaces of the Turkey Tail are in the pores on the underside of the caps. The pore surface is whitish; the pores are tiny at 3 to 5 per millimeter and the spores themselves are white.

Look-alikes: The False Turkey Tail (Stereum striatum) has made a superficial attempt at identity theft, but its spore-bearing underside is smooth; it has no pores. Also, while the caps of the real Turkey Tail are quite thin at about 3 millimeters, the False Turkey Tail caps are so thin at less than 1millimeter, it is considered a "parchment" fungus.

Ecological impact: Bracket fungi, and Turkey Tail in particular, are very efficient at breaking down wood and play an important role in the carbon cycle.

Industrial Uses: Turkey Tail has been used to test the durability of wood-plastic composites and in the treatment of industrial pollutants from textile and paper industries.

Reference: George Barron, Mushrooms of Northeast North America.

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are invited from all interested observers of nature ­ there is no requirement to be a professional biologist. You might be an innkeeper, a shepherd or a wise man. Just follow the format of today's column (or not) and send to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01741 or to Don't hold back due to lack of photos or drawings.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito