Getting out in nature is good for the mind and soul. Recently, one of the Psyence team embarked on a multi-day hike through the magnificent Tsitsikamma forest. This protected indigenous forest is the jewel of South Africa’s Garden Route, second only in popularity among foreign tourists to the Kruger National Park. It is also home to an incredible array of mushroom species.
Walking in the cool shade of the incredible ancient yellowwood and stinkwood trees, brushing past spectacular ferns, whilst hearing the calls of the Knysna Turacos was incredibly uplifting. It is impossible not to become entranced with the many incredible species of fungi that covered the dead tree trunks that lay across the forest floor. From football-sized yellow and black mushrooms to bright red lichens, there was so much to discover.
The role these mushrooms play in this incredibly diverse ecosystem is paramount. Mushrooms break down plant and animal material so that it can be assimilated by the roots of plants and recycled back into the living world. Their presence in every nook and cranny was a sign that all was well in this forest paradise.
But as we now know, mushrooms don’t just help to break up matter. Their medicinal benefits have long been recognised by many cultures. After the hike came to an end, Psyence’s resident mycologist eagerly poured over photos from the adventure, helping identify the mushroom species seen, it was particularly exhilarating to discover that at least three of these mushrooms are known for their healing properties.
Here is what we learnt about them:
Trametes cinnabarina is a common ‘’bracket’’ fungi in Southern Africa. As its Latin name suggests it is cinnamon (cannabarina) coloured but can be bright orange or even a whitish orange. It loves hard woods and is saprophytic. Trametes cinnabarina has the common name Tropical Cinnabar Bracket and it can be found in most Tropical-Neotropical habits throughout the Southern Hemisphere. This mushroom is considered medicinal in many cultures.
Trametes versicolor comes in many colour variations. Known as the Turkey Tail, it can be identified by its graphite coloured zonate rings and small uniform pores underneath. Trametes versicolor can be found in several colours even in the same forest and is highly sort after by people who collect wild medicinal plants. It is an immune booster and has anti-carcinogenic effect on tumour growth. This mushroom is cultivated for its medicinal value and has been utilised by the Chinese for thousands of years.
Trametes hirsuta is commonly known as The Hairy Bracket. It is very similar to Trametes versicolor but has no graphite zonate rings, different pores that are irregular, larger and rougher to feel than the Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor). They have the same medicinal properties of the Turkey Tail in that they are anti carcinogenic and immune boosting but not to the same extent as the Turkey Tail. This species is the most common of the Trametes genus in Neotropical climates because it is not a fussy wood consumer.