Brown-Rot Fungus Fomitopsis pinicola

Research Issue

Brown rot fungus on tree trunk. Photo by Ina Timling, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, used with permission.

Fomitopsis pinicola, a fungus with an important role in carbon cycling, is found on decaying logs and live trees throughout forests in the northern hemisphere. Based on its varied appearance and host range, scientists were not sure if F. pinicola was one species or a few species with overlapping characteristics. For a fungus with an important ecological impact, it is critical to have exact species identification and a good working description of the characteristics and host range.

Our Research

We tested and confirmed the hypothesis that F. pinicola is actually multiple species. We also sought to determine whether distinct species within the F. pinicola group correspond to geographic regions, host plants, or color patterns in the fruiting bodies. So far, we have discovered 4 distinct F. pinicola species: one in Europe, one in the Southwestern US, and two with overlapping ranges covering the northern US and Canada. Three of the species are commonly found on both hardwood and softwood trees, and all four vary in color. Future research will produce detailed species descriptions and a better understanding of the evolutionary and genetic relationships among the species in this group.

Expected Outcomes

We are creating identification keys, photographs and species descriptions of Fomitopsis pinicola for anyone who interested in identifying forest fungi. We are making DNA sequences based on vouchered fungal cultures available to the research community through online databases like GenBank. The results of this research will be of interest to forest managers, plant pathologists, and basic and applied scientists who work on carbon cycling, systematics (identification and classification of different species), mycology and forest ecology.

Research Results

Haight, John; Laursen, Gary A.; Glaeser, Jessie A.; Taylor, D. Lee. 2016. Phylogeny of Fomitopsis pinicola: A species complex. Mycologia. 108: 925-938.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Jessie Glaeser, US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Plant Pathologist
  • John-Erich Haight, US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Biological Science Laboratory Technician
  • Karen Nakasone, US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Botanist (retired)

Research Partners

  • Last modified: August 10, 2018