Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bushcraft - Central Texas Style - The Artist Conk

The Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum) is a polypore that ranges in size from a few inches to as much as three feet across. They have a woody, shelf-like appearance with a reddish brown top surface and an underneath (pore surface) that is white and stains to a brown color when marked on or scratched. It gets its name from the fact that the white spore surface can be drawn upon turning it a dark brown color. They are frequently used as a canvas of sorts for artists to render their drawings. They are generally found in clusters on dead or dying hardwoods.

If you need to leave a message for someone, you don’t need a pencil or paper if you have some artist conk in the area. Just scratch a note on the white spore surface.

Often called bracket fungi or shelf mushrooms, this fungus is widely distributed on dead or dying species of oak, elm, and other hardwoods in Texas. Artist conks are perennial and new layers of pores form on the lower surface each year. This give the interior of older artist conks a layered appearance. The interior of the artist conk will also have a velvet like texture.

Artist conks are usually found near ground level which makes them easy to harvest. While this type of conk is normally not considered edible, it does have some other uses that make it valuable. It can be used as a hearth board for starting a fire, burned to repel insects or used as a means to transport a fire when necessary. It can also be boiled as a tea or concoction but this is something I haven’t tried and would advise against.

Unlike tinder conk, artist conk is not a very good tinder material even though it catches fire quite easily when exposed to an open flame. It actually smolders without producing an open flame. If charred, you can get similar results as when using char cloth. Artist conk will smolder for hours and maintain a good set of embers that will allow you take your fire with you.

My preferred use is to repel insects and it works similar to those green coil things sold in stores. Just throw a chunk of artist conk in your fire bowl and you won't have to worry about the insects. This is also a lot better because it’s free.

Got artist conk?

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

Is that the growth that grows on cottonwood trees ? I've seen something that looks like that, looks like that yellow styrofoam insulation of old. :^)

riverwalker said...

To: anon

It's possible. I hate to make a definitive comment without seeing several pics with different views of the conch.

With the extended drought conditions we've had in Texas, many of the trees are extremely stressed and is being seen a lot more frequently.


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