Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Tail

When I was a child, I believed these wavy, leathery, tree stump outgrowths were lichens. They are, in fact, fungi. Their interesting bands of color have given them the common name Turkey Tail.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
There's a good resemblance, isn't there?

Turkey Tail Fungus, P9240122.JPG
Photo by Anita 363, on Flickr

The turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) and the very similar false turkey tail (Stereum ostrea) are bracket fungi, which means they form overlapping cup-shaped layers along the sides of logs or wounded trees. You will often find them growing on rotting oaks, hickories and pines.



Most of the fungus grows into the log; these beautiful "tails" are the showy fruiting bodies.  Shades of cream and gray or brown are typical of the turkey tails in my garden.




But, turkey tails can display shades of red, purple, yellow or even navy blue.

Sometimes, as with lichens, algae will grow with the fungus adding to the range of colors you see. The lime green of this turkey tail growing on a stump in South Carolina is likely to be caused by algae.

By Ecornerdropshop at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Turkey tails grow actively from late spring to late fall. Several garden creatures like to eat them, including squirrels and turtles. They are not poisonous to humans but are too fibrous to eat. Turkey tails have been used medicinally.

~*~