Midwest

American

Mycological

Information

Trametes versicolor
(aka Coriolus versicolor, Polyporus versicolor)

Trametes versicolor
Trametes versicolor

Common name: Turkey Tail.

Description and identifying characteristics: Trametes versicolor is common in Michigan. It is a small, thin, leathery mushroom, growing without a stalk, usually occurring in overlapping shelves or semicircular rosettes. It has many multicolored zones, alternating hairy and smooth, and has white (rarely yellow) pores. Caps are 1” to 4” wide. Its’ common name comes from the resemblance of its’ banded and many-colored cap to a wild turkey’s tail.

The word Trametes means “flesh” or “fabric,” and refers to the connective tissue of the cap projecting into the walls of the tubes. Trametes are not usually considered edible in the normal sense, as they are tough and leathery. They have, however, been suggested to be used as a substitute for chewing gum! The most common usage of these mushrooms is to grind them and steep them into a tea, which is purported to have medicinal properties. This mushroom has been used for this purpose for centuries in Asia.

More recently, an extract made from Trametes versicolor, Polysaccharide-K, has been used in China, Japan and some European counties to boost the human immune system in the treatment of cancer.

Ecology/associated host or habitat: T. versicolor grows on dead, deciduous wood, in wounds of living hardwood trees, and on conifers throughout North America (and throughout the world). It is very cosmopolitan. The usual season for fruiting in Michigan’s climate is May through December, although specimens may persist year-long; sometimes the same fruiting body may revive in the spring and live perennially.

Look-alikes: T. versicolor has a number of look-alikes; there are approximately 15 sister species in Canada and the USA. There are, however, no poisonous species of Trametes anywhere in the world, and most have medicinal properties. T. hirsute has densely hairy and grayish-white caps. T. velutina is thicker and has a smoky pore surface.

Stereum ostrea, the false turkey-tail, is the mushroom most often mistaken for Trametes versicolor. It can be differentiated from T. veriscolor as it lacks a pore surface on the underside of it’s cap, and has more of a parchment consistency. S. ostrea contains no toxic compounds, and is non-poisonous.

Methods and Tips on harvesting: Cut turkey tails off from the substrate upon which it is growing and brush off any dirt with a mushroom brush. If not used right away, the best way to preserve this mushroom is to dehydrate it and store in a cool, dry environment until ground and used for tea.

Possible allergic reactions and symptoms: There are no known side effects or allergic reactions to turkey tails. That being said, as a general rule, to minimize the risk of allergic reactions, it is recommended to limit your portion size whenever eating a species you’ve never eaten before. It is also advisable not to consume more than one new species of mushroom at the same time.

Special considerations for storage. As stated above, the best way to preserve this mushroom is to dehydrate them whole. Store in a cool, dry area.

Photos:

Different morphologies and colors of T. versicolor
Different morphologies and colors of T. versicolor

Different morphologies and colors of T. versicolor

Overlapping and rosette forms of T. versicolor
 Overlapping and rosette forms of T. versicolor

Overlapping and rosette forms of T. versicolor

References:

Kuo, Michael. Trametes versicolor: The Turkey Tail

Roger’s mushrooms: Trametes versicolor.

Superfoods addresses the characteristics of Turkey Tail mushrooms, Trametes (Coriolus) versicolor.

Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for August 1997.

YouTube videos:

David at ReWildUniversity—gives an excellent description of identifying this mushroom.

How to find Trametes Versicolor, Turkey tail mushrooms, by Earthwalker.

Paul Stamets demonstrates how to grow Trametes versicolor mushrooms.

Books:

A Field Guide to Mushrooms: North America (Peterson Field Guides) Paperback – February 15, 1998, by Kent H. McKnight (Author), Vera B. McKnight (Author, Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Editor).

Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture (Herbs and Health Series), Mar 1, 2003, by Christopher Hobbs and Harriet Beinfield.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides), Dec 12, 1981, by NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY, authored by Gary Lincoff.