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As you may have noticed, temperatures have lowered and humidity has increased due to the frequent rain we’ve been receiving lately. In Berlin this marks the onset of mushroom season, a time when cockeyed hordes of mycophiles descend in the woods around Brandenburg looking for tasty treats. However, this does not mean that the city itself is fungus-free: a common and strikingly beautiful dweller of Northern woodlands is also frequently found in Berlin.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) often colonizes decomposing pieces of wood and can be found (among other places) on large tree stumps in the city’s sidewalks. True to its Latin name, the mushroom comes in many colors, which, coupled with its undulating shape, makes for a mesmerizing spectacle. However, there is much more to this mushroom than meets the eye!

Turkey Tail has a long and esteemed history in traditional Chinese medicine and it is also one of the most medically researched mushrooms in the world. A compound isolated from the mushroom is used to boost the immune system in conjunction with regular cancer treatment. In particular, the mushroom has shown great promise in the treatment of breast and lung cancer. The mushroom is also edible although it is rather chewy and does not have much flavor. In alternative medicine, it is often prescribed in tea form for various illnesses. Finally, the versatile mushroom can also be used to dye fabrics or, alternately, fade their colors. Compounds from the mushroom are industrially used as an environmentally-conscious bleach to give jeans their “faded” look.

Although this mushroom is common, it is often mistaken for False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostria). To tell the two apart, it suffices to observe their undersides. False Turkey Tail completely lacks the pore surface of its lookalike. For a complete identification key, see hereTrametes versicolorTrametes versicolor