Botanical Name: Inonotus obliquus
Other Common Names: Chaga, Clinker Fungus
Brief Description and Notes: This is a cracked black conk/mass of mycelium growing on the outside of Birch trees, usually found in winter but can really be found anytime. Looks like a mass of burnt charcoal from the outside, inside is yellow-orange colored. From a distance foragers often confuse burls for Chaga. Chaga should only be harvested from Birch.
Where To Look For It: Birch trees! Older ones, usually. Look up high for the chaga. The conks develop in the naturally occurring winter-born wounds in the trees, which is why it usually occurs in colder climates.
Ecological Value & Roles: Parasitic
Edibility and Other Human Use: Highly medicinal mushroom for immune strength; also full of antioxidants and properties to balance blood sugar and blood pressure. Commonly brewed into a tea (small dried nuggets or using grated/powdered material). Be careful to harvest ethically–only take a small amount of what you need. You will likely need a hatchet to harvest–do not penetrate into the wood of the tree.
Header photo by Henk Monster