Artist Conk

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Ganoderma applanatum

Woody, semicircular, brownish bracket; white underside bruises dark gray to black. Grows on dead wood or in wounds of living deciduous trees. Year-round. Cap shelflike, semicircular; brown to grayish black; texture woody, can be warty or zoned; very hard, not shiny. Pores circular; white when fresh, bruising dark gray to black; pore surface darkens when scratched. Stalk not present. Spore print brown. Spores magnified are elliptical, blunt at one end.

Lookalikes: There are other Ganoderma species, but the artist conk is pure white on the underside when fresh. The resinous polypore (Ischnoderma resinosum) exudes amber-colored droplets of moisture when young.

Cap width: 2–20 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows singly or in groups of up to several on dead wood or in wounds of living deciduous trees.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Not edible.
Life cycle: 
This species exists as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting wood or as a parasite on living wood. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the brackets outside the wood, which are reproductive structures. Spores are produced in the pores and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.
Human connections: 
There are many shelf mushrooms, and some have a white underside that darkens when scratched, but this species is the largest and best for drawing and writing. The artist conk has been used for art and communication throughout history.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials wood is made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.
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