Tinder conk

"Fomes fomentarius (L.:Fr.) J. Kickx

Synonym: Polyporus fomentarius

Tinder Conk is also known as Hoof Fungus, Amadou, and Ice Man Polypore. It is
common throughout the northern boreal forest. It is found mainly on birch, but may alsooccur on cottonwood, aspen, willow, and alder.

Description: This gray to gray-brown to black conk is shaped like a hoof and has a smooth surface with concentric horizontal bands around its perimeter. The underside has fine pores and is cream colored when young, growing darker with age. Spore color is white. A perennial, it reaches maturity in 5-6 years with a diameter up to 6 inches.

Uses: As the name implies, Tinder Conk was used to start or transport fire. By placing an ember in a hole in the conk, it would smolder through the day (or longer) allowing the quick building of cooking and warming fires in a new location. Öetzi, the well-preserved 5,000 year old “ice man” found in the Alps near the Austrian-Italian border in 1991, was carrying a pouch with Tinder Conk along with pieces of flint and iron pyrite. Another use of Tinder Conk is in making hats or clothing. When soaked for several days and then pounded, the conk yields a felt-like mass of fibers which can be shaped and sewn. Tinder Conk has also been used in smoking mixtures and is the amadou sold in fly fishing shops for quickly drying waterlogged artificial flies. Like most shelf fungi, Tinder Conk has a long history of medicinal use. It has been used to cauterize wounds, as a styptic to stop bleeding, as a diuretic and laxative, and as a primitive antibiotic.

Recent studies have shown that compounds isolated from Tinder Conk exhibit antibacterial, antiviral, and antitumor properties."

- Text and Image from Alaska Plant Profiles: Conks/Shelf Fungi, retrieved December 2nd, 2012.

"From China to Europe, humans have used this hoof-shaped mushroom for practical purposes for ages. Remnants of this mushroom have been found at Stone Age sites dating back to 11,600 B.C.E. It is the oldest-known manipulated natural (biological) product associated with Palaeolithic humans. The first written record on F. formentarius was authored by Hippocrates (460- 377 B.C.E.), who mentioned its topical use for cauterizing wounds and for externally treating inflamed organs. The famous 5,000-plus-year-old ice man (nick named "Otzi") found on the slopes of the Alps in the fall of 1991 had F. fomentarius "wool" with him as well as whole fruitbodies (Capasso 1998). This wooly mass, actually dissociated mycelium, feels like felt (and is sometimes called "German felt"); it's made by boiling the mushrooms, pounding them, and peeling them apart to uncover the fiberlike understructure inside the conk.
Amadou is one of the fire-starter mushrooms known as tinder conks. the internal wooly mass is highly flammable. A hole can burrowed into the dried conk, and if embers from a fire are packed into it, fire can smoulder for hours, possibly days, allowing fire to be transported. As our prehistoric ancestors migrated from Africa into European birch forests, their possession of this knowledge ensured their survival. The fire keepers of the clan, in a position of enormous importance for the clan's survival, knew how to find and prepare these mushrooms. Now, this nearly lost at has been rediscovered.
With the invention of gunpowder by the Chinese and flint-spark guns by the Europeans (whose projectiles pierced body armour), demand for F. fomentarius soaed, since it was the best source of punk, a preparation usd to ignite gunpoder in primitive weapons. The fact tha wood conk mushrooms helped in the development of warfare is another peculiar twise in the interactions of fungi and humans. Other mushrooms, including Ganoderma applanatum, Inonotus obliquus, Phellinus igiarius and Piptoporus betulinus can also be used to start fires."

- pp. 220- 222, Mycellium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets (2005)

Polyporus fomentarius, Fomes fomentarius