All hail Piptoporus Betulinus
and bow down to the sheer wonder of what it can do for
someone stuck alone in the woods!
I love these, can you tell?
They grow all over the place by me on just about any Birch tree
(Silver and Downy Birch in my locale)
that is dead or dying, and that's usually about half of them, whether they be standing or fallen. And once you see one of them, you'll begin to
notice that they are all over forests with Birch in them and they'll swiftly become one of the resources that you spot first, because they really are
bloody useful! Otzi the Iceman carried the stuff, and you'll see why soon enough.
Some can grow to the size of a dinner plate, they are easily broken off and exist in such profusion on dead or dying Birch trees that there is no
guilt or damage to anything in taking one when many others can be found nearby.
They are distinctive, as long as you can tell a Birch from a Beech (and you will therefore avoid the slimy but similarish Ganoderms) and they are not
poisonous. In fact according to Wild Food UK
they are edible, but in my
experience i'd rather dig to the bottom of the laundry basket and eat the oldest sock i could find, but still, this kind of knowledge can save lives
But this is the very least of their properties.
They used to be commonly known as "Razor Strop Fungus" for their ability to finely hone
razors. Just pick a larger example and cut out a rectangular block of it. It's got a polystyrene like density/resistance to cutting when fresh, but
dries hard - and when dry simply hone or strop in a normal fashion. Alternatively glue a little slice to a stick for a smaller strop. As long as you
keep it dry and away from burrowing insects it will last for months at least - i've had some that lasted for 2 or 3 years.
Just like the Tinder Hoof Fungus
, Birch Polypores are great for fire lighting, and dry
powder or fine shavings take a spark and make a decent tinder.
Not only this, they can also be used to carry on ember as a block of the stuff will smoulder for a couple of hours or more if treated with care - make
a container of Birchbark (for example), line the bottom with fresh leaves, insert the smouldering lump and then sprinkle with it's own shavings and
dust. Ensure air can get to it by adding some holes in the container and with practice
you will be able to start a fire with it later in your
The smouldering property can be used in another way too. It gives off an acrid smoke that gnats and mosquitoes will avoid. Set some smouldering in a
bowl, or on a stick and you wont get bitten half as much as you would otherwise:
They are also medicinal and contain the antibiotic Piptamine
Otzi may have been carrying birch polypore as a preventive medicinal cure. Perhaps the polypore was used to help retard or rid himself of metazoans
and mycobacteria from his body. (Stamets, 2002).
According to Stamets, medicinal properties of birch polypore include that it stops bleeding, prevents bacterial infection, is an antimicrobial agent
against intestinal parasites and has anti inflamatory effects. The fungus shows antiviral properties that may be of help in times of HIV outbreaks and
other biodefense threats. Betulinic acid of this fungus may act on malignant melanoma and other tumor development (Stamets, 2005).
Pretty awesome huh?
Well i'm going to enthuse a little more
You can also make woodland plasters from the stuff - i've treated my own jagged bow-saw cuts on fingers with the stuff, and very effectively.
Find one of them that has a nice clean white underside.
This thin (under 1 mm approx) bottom layer is of a felt like texture, and by slicing a rectangular section of this off you can wrap in around a finger
for example (the inner layer should be touching the wound, not the potentially dirty outer layer and tie with a little grass.
- this guy has cut it too deep in my
opinion, about a millimetre is plenty.
- and this one is a little dirty,
but needs must!
It will quickly dry hard and adhere to itself quite effectively, making it stay in place without binding, retarding minor bleeding and aiding in
healing as well as protecting the wound from dirt and infection if like me, you're sometimes daft enough not to take a first aid kit with you into the
woods. Obviously clean the wound as soon as you are able
Otzi even used lumps of the stuff, in the opinion of myself and a few others, as pegs to secure items to his tool belt - i'm going to have to return
to hopefully post details of this later as my link was on an old pc and my Net-Fu is weak... So thank you for reading, i hope it's of use to someone
edit on 1-12-2014 by skalla because: typos etc
edit on 1-12-2014 by skalla because: clarity, typo