Chaga

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. 

 

Sources:

Midwest American Mycological Information

Header photo by Henk Monster