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The Amateur Mycologist #25 - Pycnoporus cinnabarinus - A Bright Orange/Red Mushroom With Practical/Industrial Applications

The Amateur Mycologist #25 - Pycnoporus cinnabarinus - A Bright Orange/Red Mushroom With Practical/Industrial Applications

These posts are not for foraging. They are intended for entertainment and intellectual satisfaction only. These posts are not a field guide nor comprehensive in any way - their accuracy is not assured in any way. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you are a professional, have substantial professional assistance or have a wealth of personal experience with a specific species. Do not make any foraging decisions based on these posts. To do so could be dangerous or life threatening.

These Posts Contains No Information Regarding Edibility Or Toxicity

At first glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking these mushrooms for Ganodermas

However, the mushroom pictured above is not a Reishi mushroom - it isn't a Ganoderma at all. In fact, it is a completely different genus entirely.

Let's take a closer look at a slightly younger cap.


Already things are looking a lot less "Ganoderma-ish"

The red/orange color is too uniform and matte. There doesn't appear to be a tough outer skin. In fact, this thing looks downright fleshy.

Let's get in there and give it a touch.


This is definitely NOT a ganoderma!

This is Pycnoporus cinnabarinus, and although the slightly older specimens look vaguely like Ganoderma at a glance, the resemblance begins to wear very thin, very quickly. If you have any lingering doubts, a quick, squishy poke will dispel them entirely!

Alternatively, you can take a cap and flip it over to see the real show!


Look at that vibrant pore color!

These caps were all on the older side, but they still retained the most vibrant red/orange pores I've ever seen in person on a mushroom. The Pycnoporus genus is known for the vibrant red/orange coloration of its pores. In conjunction with its polypore structure, saprobic log growth, and fleshy texture, the awesome pore colors make for a fairly unique and identifiable mushroom.

But what really makes P.cinnabarinus awesome is its various practical and industrial uses. This is a topic I have not yet expounded upon much - but P.cinnabarinus is a perfect place to start.

But before we get into all that, let's get clear on the mushrooms other macroscopic traits.

The single log I found had the mushroom in old, middle aged, and incipient form. Take a look at the baby version.


These incipient specimens almost look like a slime mold, but for the tiny caps

P.cinnabarinus is a fairly common mushroom, on average, in North America. However, it can be exceedingly rare based on locality, and apparently without muc rhyme or reason. Kuo says he has only seen this mushroom twice in over a decade. I just saw it on my fourth major walk through Central Park. Others seem to find pounds of the stuff.

Wherever it grows, it will always be saprobic, on a dead log. There is anecdotal talk of it preferring newly downed trees or specific species, but nothing is consistently reported to that effect.

The mushrooms doesn't like it too cold, but in temperate areas can be seen almost year round.

Let's look at a cross section


The flesh color mirrors the cap and is roughly uniform throughout.

The pore layer can be clearly distinguished and the flesh does not change color when bruised.

In case you have any lingering doubts about whether you have P.cinnabarinus or a Ganoderma, your fairly easy ability to tear the cao in half with your hands, and the lack of a dark brown interior flesh, will leave no doubt.

You can also see the clearly delineated pore surface stretching a couple of mm through the body of the mushroom.

This is also the first species we've highlighted to have a relevant KOH reaction. But as we'll see, this can sometimes be a source of confusion as much as edification.

Take a look at the KOH reactions on this specimen, several minutes after KOH was applied.


This is the top of the mushroom - brown centers with yellow edges.

The spots would yellow even more with time.

Now take a look at the pore surface KOH reactions in the same timetable.


Similar coloration to the cap stains

A darker, brownish center with yellowing around the edges.

However, when I first dropped some KOH on a seperate piece of pore surface several hours earlier, the reaction was a much darker and more consistent brown, becoming almost black.

Take a look at that, and note the speed of the initial reaction.


A younger cap also presented a different coloration on top, ending up at a light matte brown.

Confusingly, that leaves us with three different KOH reactions:

  1. On the cap of a fresher mushroom - light brown

  2. On the pores of a fresher mushroom -Brown to blackish

  3. On the cap and pores of a mushroom 24 hours after harvest - brown fading progressively to yellow around the edge.

Now compare this information to the KOH reactions provided by Kuo:

Cap surface purplish to reddish, then gray to black with KOH; pore surface olive green with KOH; flesh slowly reddish to blackish or in older specimens yellowish with KOH.


Not only is that grammatcally confusing, but the colors hardly seem to line up at all! At this point I started to wonder if I had the wrong mushroom entirely. But then I looked at the photos Kuo has up of the KOH reactions, and they look fairly similar to the older pore reaction and younger cap reaction.

I also did some seperate google scholar research on the species and found an Indian research paper that investigated its uses and characteristics in some detail. They indicated only a blackening reaction to KOH, which is consistent with the fresher pore surface reaction I saw.

What is one to make of this confusion? Well, the KOH has definitely assisted in placing the genus. However, the vagueries of color descriptions versus photos, and even the specifics of individual specimen reactions, can sometimes make for more confusion than clarity.

Last question is the spore print - should be white.


The cap was pretty old and pretty wet, but we got a scant white print out of it nonetheless which you can see in this photo.

Given the host of positive identifying traits, despite the mixed KOH results, I feel comfortable identifying the species in this case. Comfortable enough that I made it into a full out species post.

Practical applications:

Many mushrooms have practical or industrials applications beyond being food or their utilitarian purpose in the ecosystem. Obviously, P.cinnabarinus breaks down dead wood. But it also has at least a couple of awesome uses:

  1. Making natural orange dye - A quick squeeze of the fresh cap releases a good amount of orange tinted fluid. However, if you collect multiple caps, and the mycelium itself, you can extract a fairly color fast orange dye that can be used on a variety of mediums.

  2. Harvesting Laccase for industrial uses - Laccase is an enzyme present in several mushroom species. It can be extracted from P.cinnabarinus and then utilized in several potential applications - including bio-fuel battery designs, tooth whitening, dyeing, and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand - including a wide variety of purposes as a food additive

This is just the tip of the pragmatic iceberg of mycological uses. We will talk in the future about how much deeper the rabbit hole may go.


  • Cap = fairly uniform red/orange color, at first quite bright and slowly fading as the cap ages - the surface of the cap was suede like in its texture, but Kuo indicates possible small hairs as well. Shelf like or kidney shaped, as you see in the pictures above. 2-13cm in width range, 2cm or so in thickness. Doess not bruise.

  • Spore surface = bright orange/red, dulls with time but not as much as the cap.

  • Flesh = Tough and fleshy - juicy after rain - consistent dark orange, but tearable by hand. Does not bruise.

  • Stem ("stipe") = none

  • Spore Print = White

  • Ecology ("How it grows.") = Saprobic on dead logs. Kuo specifies mostly hardwood, but allows for conifers. Seems pretty equal opportunity overal. Can be spring through fall or year round in temperate areas.

  • Distribution = Common on average inNorth America, but can be rare in specific localities.

  • Other = Cap and mycelium can be harvested for orange dye and the enzyme laccase for industrial uses.


Photos Are My Own

Information Sources: [1]Kuo on P.cinnabarinus [2]Wikipedia On P.cinnabarinus [3]Messiah College on P.cinnabarinus [4]"CHARACTERIZATION AND CONSERVATION OF EDIBLE AND MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS OF WESTERN GHATS OF INDIA", by Meera Pandey and Veena S.S, Society for Promotion of Tropical Biodiversity, Jabalpur, Indian J. Trop. Biodiv. 20(1) : 37 - 44(2012) [5]Eggert, Claudia, Ulrike Temp, and Karl-Erik Eriksson. "The ligninolytic system of the white rot fungus Pycnoporus cinnabarinus: purification and characterization of the laccase." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 62.4 (1996): 1151-1158. APA [6]Wikipedia on Laccase

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