Our December 2011 featured mushroom was the Ganoderma lucidum: aka Lingzhi, Ling Chih, Reishi, Varnished Conk
The Ganoderma lucidum is a fan shaped, reddish to maroon polypore that grows as a shelf on hardwoods. This polypore is renowned in Eastern medicines as a tonic used for immune system support. The Chinese name Lingzhi or Ling Chih means the mushroom of immortality or the herb of spiritual potency or the marvelous herb. Reishi is the Japanese name. In a table cross indexing mushrooms and targeted avenues of research, Paul Stamets claims that this mushroom is targeted for providing eleven of the twelve areas of targeted medical research he discusses. Typically the mushroom is dried and powdered and steeped in hot water to make a tea. Another way to use the mushroom is to chop it up and soak it in wine for several months.
Ganoderma lucidum generally appears as a fan-shaped shelf mushroom that often develops into a kidney or fan-shaped cap with a lateral stalk (attached to the side of the cap). The mushrooms are dark red to reddish brown to maroon with a very shiny surface that appears to be varnished (hence the English name). The edge of the cap is occasionally white to yellowish. The caps range from two to twelve inches across. The stem, one to six inches long and ½ to 1 ½ inches wide, when present is colored like the cap. The off-white pores are miniscule with five to seven per millimeter bruising brown. The tubes range can be ½ inch long. The spore print is brown and the pores can age brown as the mushroom matures. The flesh, which can reach two inches thick, is whitish near the surface of the cap changing to brownish near the tubes.
There is one nearly identical look-alike: Ganoderma tsugae which differs from G. lucidum by its habitat. G. tsugae grows on conifers and G. lucidum grows on hardwoods. The two species are almost identical otherwise. A shelf mushroom, Fomitopsis pinicola, can be somewhat similarly colored but has a much harder and denser flesh than the two Ganoderma species.