The gilled polypore, scientific name Lenzites betulina is a saprobic mushroom that consumes dead hardwoods and sometimes conifer trees as well. It is found on stumps or rotten logs, isolated or in clusters, with an annual life cycle. Gilled polypore is common in North America where it appears during the summer and autumn. It causes sapwood rot with a color that varies from white to yellow.
Caps have a size of about 10 cm and a thickness of 2 cm. They can have various shapes, like an irregular bracket, similar to a semicircle, kidney-like, flattened or convex. The surface is usually covered by dense hairs, ridges, radial bumps or concentric textures. Gilled polypore lacks a stem and the structure is flexible. The gilled polypore can have multiple colors: white, brown, grey or even green if algae grow on it as it ages. The white gills are sometimes densely packed or well-spaced, with a depth of at least 1 cm and a sharp texture.
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The gilled polypore is found on dead wood, where its fruiting bodies create semicircular brackets. They grow in clusters arranged on top of each other, usually with some horizontal spacing between them. They can also expand laterally, but this is quite rare. There is a central attachment point, from which the fungus spreads. Depending on the amount of available space, the final size can be quite different. Semicircular shapes are the most common, when the fruiting body is located on the side of trees. When the growth starts on top, the final shape resembles a kidney or even a full circle sometimes, a structure resembling a stipe is also possible. The greatest thickness is at the central attachment point, where it can reach 2 cm.
L. betulina caps are easily identified by the concentric zones that have different colors. Not only the color is distinct, but also the elevation and texture. The most common colors are white, brown, grey or red. When algae establish colonies on older caps, the color can become green as well. A dense structure of hairs covers the entire pileus. The margin of the fruiting bodies is often waved, because of the bumps and grooves that start from the central point in a radial pattern.
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One of the most distinctive features of the species is located on its underside, where gills are created on the surface of spores. They have a strong texture, with a white or creamy color, and grow radially from the attachment point. The gills of this species are similar to the ones of agaric mushrooms, with the same sharp edges. Despite the presence of gills, the mushroom looks and grows like a polypore species. It shares the polypore woody flesh, completely different than the soft one of agarics. Another typical behaviour is the expansion of some gills to nearby fruiting bodies, creating patterns resembling a net or a maze.
All mushrooms are classified as low-fat foods and are rich in nutrients. They are a great source of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, as well as vitamins B, C, and D.
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Besides supplying nutrients, mushrooms play additional roles and are considered functional foods rather than regular ones. Mushrooms have medicinal and health benefits due to the rich package of bioactive compounds in their composition. Some of the most famous belong to the Ganoderma species, with the reishi or ling zhi being the ones with therapeutic effects. The market for Ganoderma varieties is estimated at over 1.5 billion dollars in the United States, which proves their popularity and very high commercial value. Some of these mushrooms are believed to provide a range of health benefits from liver protection and blood sugar balance to the activation of the immune system.
Many other mushrooms are cultivated for medicinal purposes. These include the shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) and the so-called Chinese mushroom, also known as the straw mushroom or Volvariella volvacea in scientific terms. A variety with significant benefits that is harvested from the wild is the chaga mushroom, or Inonotus obliquus. Cordyceps sinensis is another type with commercial importance, cultivated in Asian countries like Nepal or China.
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Most species are effective antibiotics and antivirals; some are also able to eliminate parasites, bacteria and fungi. Even common edible mushrooms like Oudemansiella mucida or Agaricus blazei provide such benefits, a third example often consumed as food is Hypsizygus marmoreus. Fungi with antiviral effects are Ganoderma applanatum, Inonotus obliquus, Volvariella volvacea, Armillaria mellea, Agrocybe aegerita and Dendropolyporus umbellatus.
Anti-inflammatory properties have been identified in edible mushrooms such as Laetiporus sulphureus and Marasmius androsaceus. Varieties that can't be consumed have similar properties, for example gilled polypore, Fomes fomentarius and Piptoporus betulinus.
Mushrooms are known to have anti-tumour properties and are being investigated as part of the search for a cure for cancer. Gilled polypore is one of the species that slows down the expansion of tumours, as well as an oyster mushroom with the scientific name Pleurotus pulmonarius. This was confirmed by the preliminary results of some animal studies. Mushrooms pair very well with chemotherapy.
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Grifola frondosa is useful in natural remedies against hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolaemia. It can balance the level of cholesterol and fats in the blood, which is useful for people who suffer from heart diseases. The liver can also be protected in a natural way with the help of mushrooms, using the power of fungi like Ganoderma lucidum or Lentinula edodes.
There are several ways to take advantage of the health benefits of mushrooms. They are often included in preparations like soups, tonics, tinctures, herbal teas. However, some of these formulas have not been scientifically tested, so it's a good idea to ask for an advice from your doctor, who can decide on the proper prescription. This is especially important if you suffer from chronic or serious diseases. Never abandon your normal medication and be aware that herbal remedies can have unexpected consequences. They can serve as supplements, rather than the main treatment.
The gilled polypore decomposes dead wood of hardwoods and rarely conifers, living as a saprobic species. Gilled polypore is found in both Europe and North America. Except the extreme southwest, gilled polypore is widespread all across the United States. The most common host tree in Europe is the birch, which actually explains the scientific name of the species, while in the USA it can be found on many hardwoods. The fruiting bodies are found during the summer and autumn but have a very tough structure, so can persist on trees for the entire year.