Where do turkeys get their tails? They must have copied the fabulous turkey tail polypore! Trametes versicolor, which is better known as turkey tail, is a common, colorful saprophyte that can be seen around forests all over North America. This fungus is a saprophyte, meaning it gets its nourishment from dead tissue; in this case usually hardwoods. A synonyms are Polyporus versicolor and Coriolus versicolor.
Figure 1: Dead log colonized by Trametes versicolor in Baker’s woodlot on Michigan State University’s campus.
The semi-circular shaped polypore is usually brightly colored with different hues of red, orange, yellow and brown rings in very pronounced rings. Sometimes there can even be shades of green nd blue rings! The polypore will have overlaying caps, some more circular than others. The pore surface is white and porous, which tubes as deep as 3mm(1). The flesh of this polypore is tough, leathery, edible but not very good.
Under a microscope the spores are 5-6 x 1.5-2 µl long, smooth, cylindric, and inamyloid(1). The cystidia are absent and the hyphal system is trimitic (1).
Trametes versicolor is known for producing “Polysaccaride K,” or PSK, which is used in cancer treatments. There has been ongoing studies about the effectiveness of PSK for decades. There are meta reviews in the works about the actual effectiveness (2).
1. Kuo, M. 2005. Trametes versicolor: The turkey tail. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/trametes_versicolor.html
2. Pilkington K, Leach J, Teng L, Storey D, Liu JP. Coriolus versicolor mushroom for colorectal cancer treatment. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD012053. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012053.12.04.16