Cinnabar Polypore: The Mushroom and the Name

Fall is the best season for seeing fresh bracket mushrooms on fallen logs and branches in Eliza Howell Park. Recently, I decided to check the location of a Black Cherry tree that fell in 2019. Many of the mushrooms that help to decompose wood seem to start appearing about two years after a tree falls.

Much of the tree has been removed, but on some smaller branches that remain there are some Turkey Tail-shaped mushrooms that are common in the park.

In addition, there are several of a type that is not as common, similarly shaped but distinctively different in color.

I am not as familiar with this variety, but a quick review of “orange mushrooms that grow on fallen cherry limbs” suggested that this is likely Cinnabar Polypore. A look at the pore surface (underside) confirmed the identity. The underside is similar in color to the topside, though a little more red.

“Polypore” is the name given to a group of fungi in which the fruiting bodies have pores or tubes on the underside (as can be seen in the close up below). No other polypore that I am aware of is orange/red on both sides.

Cinnabar Polypore is stalkless, is considered inedible, and is often found on fallen cherry branches. These are about 2 inches across.

I am fascinated by the “Cinnabar ” part of the common name. When I was in early elementary school some 70 years ago, my box of crayons had 8 colors. Both orange and red were included, but no cinnabar! Now Crayola lists something like 23 shades of red and 14 shades of orange.

Perhaps my satisfaction with a box of 8 crayons is the reason I have not developed an extensive color vocabulary, but this might be the time to change. “Orange-red” suffices to describe this special mushroom, but it probably doesn’t do it as well as “cinnabar” does.

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