Fomitopsis Pinicola, otherwise known as the Red Belted Polypore, is a basiaiomycete fungus of the Fomitopsidaceae family. While its botanical (Latin) name refers to the conifers on which it predominantly grows, its vernacular name returns to the characteristic red band lining the outer edge of the upper side of the mushroom.
Red Belted Polypore Identification
The Red Belted Polypore is a bracket fungus (alternatively called a shelf fungus). It grows on decaying wood although may start off as a parasitic fungus on a living tree before it dies and the fungus becomes a saprophyte (wood decomposer).
The fungus has no notable foot with which it is attached to the host tree. Instead, it grows in console, ie hoof.
The fertile side of the mushroom is at the bottom. It contains the pores which tend to be whitish to pale yellow, sometimes into buff as the fungus ages. The pores are small, barely visible to the naked eye. The spores are off-white to pale-yellow.
The upper, infertile side has a glossy look to it – appears to have been coated with a varnish, which becomes more pronounced after rain.
The edge of the upper side has notable orange tones, which give the fungus its name, but the band is not visible in young specimen. Old enough specimen will bear gradient colors ranging from orange yellow at the edge, passing through red, and ending with gray all the way to black.
The fruiting body of the fungus can grow up to 40cm in diameter, and can get 15cm thick. It is hard and woody to the touch. The texture is tough like leather which renders the fungus inedible because it’s impossible to chew. However it is not poisonous and the extracts are edible with medicinal properties.
The red-belted polypore is a perennial fungus, meaning it grows over several years. Each year as it grows bigger in overall size, it also develops a new layer of pores on the bottom of the old pores. The layers become visible when the mushroom is cut. This can assist in determining the mushroom’s age.
Fomitopsis Pinicola can most often be found growing on the dead or dying pine trees, but as seen in the video, is won’t turn down hardwoods either.
This species, like most bracket fungi, plays an important role in the decomposition of dead wood and the carbon cycle.
Red Belted Polypore Lookalikes
The Red-Belted Polypore is sometimes referred to as the Red-Belted Conk. Another mushroom known as the Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma Applanatum) can look somewhat similar, but it lacks the glossy upper surface.
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum), which I introduce in the video outlining its health benefits, does have the gloss, but it grows on a foot which helps it distinguish from Fomitopsis Pinicola.
Either way, both Ganoderma species mentioned as well as the Fomitopsis Pinicola have medicinal properties and none is poisonous so confusing them with one another would only result in still having a healthy mushroom for a brew. They are all tough mushrooms which are impossible to chew, so the way to enjoy the health benefits is by slow boiling for an extended period of time (at least 20 minutes) or by macerating for at least 2 weeks in high volume (preferably 80% proof) alcohol. I describe the process in more detail in the already mentioned post about the health benefits of Reishi, Cordyceps and Ginger.
Agarikon (Laricifomes Officinalis) can also look alike, but it’s fairly rare and it’s also a highly medicinal mushroom with potent health benefits.
Red Belted Polypore Medicinal Properties
According to a 2017 scientific paper published in Acta Alimentaria titled “Fomitopsis pinicola in healthful dietary approach and their therapeutic potentials“, the medicinal properties of Fomitopsis Pinicola range from anti-cancer, through anti-oxidant all the way to anti-inflammatory.
A 2020 review paper published in the journal Molecules titled “Characterisation of Extracts and Anti-Cancer Activities of Fomitopsis pinicola” looked at available scientific evidence and found that in vitro experiments revealed the pro-apoptotic, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Fomitopsis Pinicola extracts, whilst two of three in vivo studies reported an inhibition of tumor growth and prolonged survival.
The results of another 2020 scientific paper, published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, titled “Antidiabetic Properties of the Red Belt Conk Medicinal Mushroom Fomitopsis pinicola (Agaricomycetes) Extracts on Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats” demonstrated that high-dose ethanol extract of Fomitopsis pinicola protected the organ tissues from oxidative stress by normalizing the antioxidant levels. The study concluded that Fomitopsis pinicola ethanol extract has a hypoglycemic, hyperinsulinemic, antioxidant, and antihyperlipidemic effect, and regulates hyperglycemia by increasing insulin secretion.
Author Greg Marley reports in his 2009 book “Mushrooms for Health: Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi” that decoctions and tinctures made from the Red Belted Polypore are anti-inflammatory and immune system supporting.
I decided not to harvest the Red Belted Polypore I filmed in this video. At least for now. I know where it grows now so I can return to it later. I’m presently well stocked on various medicinal mushrooms so it would be pointless for me to harvest this fungus which still has some growth in it before the tree stump from which it draws nutrients has nothing more to offer.