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Rosy Conk - Rhodofomes cajanderi

Good evening, friends,


This week’s mushroom is the Rosy Conk (Rhodofomes cajanderi). We found this mushroom on the NYMS walk in Manitou this summer, but it was just a little baby conk with a sweet smell and rosy colors. This fall I found a much larger fruiting on a different log up in Manitou. I first was introduced to this mushroom last summer at the Rochester Area Mycological Association Both Bolete Foray and was captivated by the candy-like aroma. A mushroom that you’ll usually see at higher elevations or more northern climes, but I was stoked to see it growing here in the Hudson Valley. Lots to learn and also I’ve got a special announcement at the end of the email.


Rosy Conk - Rhodofomes cajanderi

Fun Facts


A study measured the cytotoxicity (the degree to which a substance can cause damage to a cell) of different mushrooms in alcohol extracts (Reference 3). They used a “brine shrimp lethality bioassay” to conduct their research. Basically looked at which concentrations of which mushroom extracts killed the most brine shrimp, and R. cajanderi was the most potent for whatever that’s worth. Well, it’s worth at least the idea that this mushroom could have medicinal benefits (like anti-tumor properties).


The same study also determined that extracts of F. cajanderi had an analgesic effect on mice after conducting an “acetic acid induced writhing test”. They’re kind of getting wild down in those labs, no? What a scene that must be just showing up to work to run experiments on animals under sterile, fluorescent tube lights.


The mushroom is perennial and will form a new pore layer each year on top of the past year’s pores.
The mushroom is perennial and will form a new pore layer each year on top of the past year’s pores.

More interestingly, I stumbled on an herbalist outfit out of the Pacific Northwest, Reishi and Roses Botanicals, where these two women, Anna Sitkoff and Olivia Froelich, developed and conducted their own study on the cytotoxicity of R. cajanderi (Reference 4). I was googling the title of said study, trying to find where they were citing it from, but I quickly realized they did it themselves. I was impressed, it takes real gumption to design and conduct your own study just out of your own naturopathic curiosity. They also did determine that hot ethanol extracts of R. cajanderi had strong cytotoxic effects.


Finding a footing amidst the poison ivy.
Finding a footing amidst the poison ivy.

The prefix Rhodo- means “rose-colored” and that pretty evidently refers to the color of the mushroom. The suffix -fomes means “tinder” but in this context it refers to how these fungi share similarities to those in the genus Fomes (in fact our mushroom was originally classified as Fomes cajanderi). The species epithet Cajanderi is named after Aimo Cajander, an early 1900s ecologist, forester, and three-time prime minister of Finland.


Aimo Cajander sporting a mustache that makes me blush.
Aimo Cajander sporting a mustache that makes me blush.

Ecology


The fungus is saprobic on dead conifers (evergreens), and there is some thinking that it could be parasitic on living trees. It is seldom found on hardwoods, and both of the specimens I’ve seen at Manitou are digesting well-decayed conifer. The fungus creates a brown rot which means they specifically digest the cellulose in the plant cell walls. This results in the wood breaking down into hard, cubical pieces.


A young mushroom displaying guttation. These liquid drops could be excretion as a byproduct of digestion or a form of nutrient storage.
A young mushroom displaying guttation. These liquid drops could be excretion as a byproduct of digestion or a form of nutrient storage.

The fungus grows where there are conifers in the northern hemisphere, and their range stretches down through Central and into South America as well. The mushrooms can be found year-round, and I found the larger photographed specimens after the leaves had begun to fall because as they became more visible. The small specimens I found had a sweet, candy-like odor but the older specimens unfortunately did not have that saccharine scent.


A couple look-a-likes are the relative Rhodofomes roseus which forms more of a cracked, woody cap with age (like the cracked cap polypore - Fulvifomes robiniae). This sister species is apparently found more frequently in montane, high-altitude areas. A species you’re probably more likely to run into and confuse for this mushroom is Ganoderma sessile which has a red shellacked cap and grows pretty commonly in the NYC area on hardwoods.


A young, happy mushroom. The pink pore surface bruised a deeper shade of pink, closer to purple.
A young, happy mushroom. The pink pore surface bruised a deeper shade of pink, closer to purple.

A Mushroom Monday Holiday Season Update


Folks, I’ve got some big news for this upcoming holiday season. I’m going to do the first ever Mushroom Monday Book Report. My first book will be David Allegro’s The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. Described by the author Joan Taylor as “one of the strangest books ever published on the subject of religion and pharmacology”, it sounds like it’s right up my alley.


The book focuses on the Amanita muscaria mushroom (the Fly Agaric, or the “Mario mushroom”) and how it could have shaped the origins of western religion. I’m going to hopefully tie in the lore surrounding Amanita muscaria and Christmas as well, and hopefully publish on Monday 12/25. I won’t be publishing weekly Monday missives in December, though, and will instead channel all my creative energy into the book report.


I do think I’ll have to turn on payments though so I can access that sweet, sweet unlimited word count. The weekly renditions of Mushroom Monday will always be free, that’s a guarantee, and the book report will be as well. I’m not in this game for the scratch (although I could be in this game for scratch if it allowed me to support myself outside of traditional M-F work). But no, this is an educational endeavor and this information should be free and accessible. However, if you have already pledged money (which is super thoughtful, it does cost some coin to host the website and own the URL) you will probably be billed. I’ll do some more due diligence between now and then as I iron out the details. Stay tuned.


New Moon tonight,

Aubrey


References:

  1. Kuo, M. (2022, July). Rhodofomes cajanderi. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/rhodofomes_cajanderi.html

  2. Moazzem Hossen SM, Hossain MS, Akbar S, Tahmida U, Mawa J, Uddin Emon N. Wild mushrooms showed analgesic and cytotoxic properties along with phytoconstituent's binding affinity to COX-1, COX-2 and cytochrome P450 2C9. Heliyon. 2021 Sep 14;7(9):e07997. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e07997. PMID: 34585013; PMCID: PMC8455681.

  3. Taylor, Joan. The Essenes, The Scrolls, and the Dead Sea. Page 305. https://books.google.com/books?id=XWIMFY4VnI4C&pg=PA305#v=onepage&q&f=false

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