Polyporous

black birch with Polyporus betulina fungi

Betula lenta, “pliant birch tree.” It’s true: a black birch is almost always more resilient than a white one, more likely to straighten back up after bearing a translucent burden of ice. Only in death does it lose its give and become rigid with listening, all its ears turned downward for news of the earth.

For more winter fungi, see A Passion for Nature‘s fungi category. Jennifer’s even putting together a book on the subject.

6 Comments


  1. Lovely photo, Dave, and caption. Are those the edible variety of polyporus? There is a fungus literary anthology in preparation in Oregon. I have poem under consideration with them. – Allan

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  2. Hi Allan – Thanks for visiting. I don’t actually know about the edibility of these. The only shelf fungi I’ve eaten are oyster mushrooms and chicken mushrooms.

    A literary anthology devoted to fungi sounds like a wondrous thing.

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  3. pah—-LIP-a-russ!

    I’m no student of botany, nor taxonomy, but I had to look into this sweet birch, especially since I know a person named Betul. It seems so twisted! From what I peeked: Linnaeus named the birch after Pliny who called the river, or black birch, Betula because it was the color as bitumen — or maybe it was the flammability of the pitch in the bark that got his attention? Frost analyzed; Hebrew baby names; German; the epochs of coal: if the history of the websites I have visited this morning were a stacked paper I would throw it into the air.

    I love lithotrophes, by the way, the whole idea of stone-eating fungi busy making from stone, everything. In the wilderness, the bread baked from lichen is nearly done.

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  4. Yeah, the precise connection between betula and bitumen does seem a little murky to me, but for all intents and purposes, “betula” means “birch.” Linnaeus simply adopted the common Latin word, I gather. The Online Etymology Dictionary says,

    genus of the birches, from L. betula “birch,” from Gaul. betu- “bitumen” (cf. M.Ir. beithe “box tree,” Welsh bedwen “birch tree”). According to Pliny, so called because the Gauls extracted tar from birches. Birch tar is still sold as an analgesic and stimulant and made into birch beer by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

    But sap is clear — nothing like tar! And birch beer production is hardly limited to PA Germans. So I can well believe that a web search led you in circles.

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  5. Thanks for the plug! I’ve “finished” the little tiny 7X7 book with about 24 pages. I haven’t published it yet… waiting for a colleague to proof read it first. Can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

    I love the image of trees with ears listening to the ground!

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