Good evening, friends,
Some snow in the northeast for once, that’s a nice change of pace. Before we fully delve into a new year of mushrooms, there’s one mushroom that I featured very early on who needs a rewrite. Way back on November 2nd, 2020, I logged on to the communal computers at the Central Park Conservancy to avoid doing actual work and wrote about Pycnoporus cinnabarinus. The email went just to coworkers, and the mushroom has undergone a name change in the interim, so it’s a good time to revisit Trametes cinnabarina, the Northern Cinnabar bracket.
This mushroom smells and tastes like Pez candies. It’s a distinct smell that I don’t encounter elsewhere, so if you’re unfamiliar you may want to swing by the Pez factory the next time you find yourself on I-95 in Orange, CT. I find this mushroom a few times a year and I’ve noted this smell/taste in each specimen, but you won’t find this olfactory and gustatory description on any other online sources. This is the hard-hitting investigative journalism you expect from your weekly mushroom blog. Despite the sweet aroma, the mushroom isn’t considered edible because it is too rubbery.
Trametes means “one who is thin” (I guess someone didn’t overindulge on the holiday sweets, am I right folks?) - broken down into the prefix tram- which means “thin” and the suffix -etes which means “one who is”. The species epithet, cinnabarina means “bright red”. I also learned that cinnabar is a bright red mineral form of Mercury Sulfide (HgS for you chemists).
The fungus is saprobic and decomposes hardwood (seldom does it digest conifers). I find it on black birch (Betula lenta) at Manitou. The mushrooms pop up spring through fall but can persist well into the winter and don’t mind a little snow blanket. The fungus can be found throughout the northern hemisphere, and potentially in South America as well. There are fungi that look similarly so as DNA sequencing becomes more prevalent, that will help reveal some geographic-specific species.
As the mushrooms age, the orange color can leach out and leave them a ghostly white (which then makes for a tricky ID). The caps can range up to six inches across and usually have some thickness to them (despite what their latin name may suggest). The mushrooms can pop up solitarily or in groups. They can grow in kidney-shaped semicircles when fruiting out of the side of a log, or a full circular fruiting body when popping out of the top of wood.
I cut and ripped parts of the mushroom to see if there was any bruising or discoloring, a helpful characteristic for identification. If you look above, you can see the brown “T” that I carved with my finger nail. The orange cap and pore surface did not bruise, however, but there was a brown intermediate layer (seen below) that seemed to bruise a darker brown. Curious.
There is a very similar species, Trametes sanguinea, that likely grows in the area (there have been DNA substantiated finds in West Virginia and Bloomington, Indiana - a second btown reference in as many weeks). However, there have yet to be any confirmed sightings in the northeast. T. sanguinea is a similar reddish orange in color, but has a smaller cap in width and is thinner in depth too. To add to the confusion, there’s also a southern cinnabar bracket (Trametes coccinea) that looks identical to T. cinnabarina, so if you’re in southern North America that may be your local orange polypore.
Just see if they smell like Pez and go from there, that’s my advice.
New moon on Thursday,
Kuo, M. (2010, February). Pycnoporus cinnabarinus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/pycnoporus_cinnabarinus.html