The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 21, 2001

Features

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 kayfair@aol.com. Don't hold back due to lack of photos or drawings.


2001 The Carlisle Mosquito