Skip to main content

Sometimes when you are out hiking, you see something that stops you in your tracks. Just off a path in the Peak District National Park, I saw a very strange symmetrical growth jutting out from the trunk of a Silver Birch (Betula pendula), that looked just like the hoof of a horse! On closer examination, it turned out to be that very strange fungus known as the Horse’s Hoof Fungus – or sometimes the Tinder Fungus (Fomes fomentarius). From prehistoric times, this fungus has been used as tinder to aid in fire starting. As you can see, this particular growth has cracked, and this has exposed a layer of the structure called amadou. After the fungus has been harvested, this layer can be stripped out, and then soaked in a solution of potassium nitrate. When dried out, and hammered flat, the amadou can be used to catch sparks struck between a flint and a piece of iron, and then used to light a fire. There exists evidence that Iron Age peoples exploited this same property by using sparks struck between flint and a piece of iron pyrites.

Amadou also has an amazing capacity to absorb water. When I was young, I used to go fishing a great deal, sometimes even fly-fishing on the River Derwent, in Derbyshire. I had been inspired by a wonderful book called, ‘Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing: A Guide in Pictures to Fishing Round the Year’ by Bernard Venables (Mirror Features, 1950), and one of the many tips he demonstrated was the use of a piece of amadou to periodically absorb water from a dry fly (when fishing for trout) before slightly oiling it to keep it above the surface layer, like natural insects.

Horse’s Hoof Fungus is parasitic on the Silver Birch and is also sometimes seen infesting the European Beech (Fagus slyvatica). However, it is a general indicator of ill-health of the tree, whichever species it is found on. When the tree finally dies, the Horse’s Hoof will continue to feed off the now decaying wood, but will have to grow a new fungal body, parallel to the ground, so that its spores can propagate correctly. All in all, a most unusual fungus, with a couple of useful attributes!

Originally posted to SciTech on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:33 PM PST.

Also republished by Backyard Science and Derbyshire and The Peak District.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site