Alien fungi: The medicinal 'swirling clouds'

Have you ever seen "swirling clouds" on dead trees? Of course, they are no real clouds, but a kind of mushroom named "cloud mushroom" or Yun Zhi (云芝) in Chinese. Due to their resemblance to the tail of a strutting turkey, they are also known as turkey tail mushrooms.

A turkey (upper) and turkey tail mushrooms (lower). /Getty

A turkey (upper) and turkey tail mushrooms (lower). /Getty

Turkey tail mushrooms have even more scientific names. If you come across names like Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor, don't be confused, they all refer to the same mushroom. The Latin word "versicolor" means "of several colors," which vividly depicts their wide range of color variations. Although shades of brown are the most commonly seen, you may find them with stunning bands of blue, red, orange or green. 

Blue turkey tail mushrooms. /Getty

Blue turkey tail mushrooms. /Getty

Despite their colorful upper surface, the underside is white and covered in tiny shallow pores. They can be found throughout the year, but they are at their best in autumn and winter when they release spores. 

The mushrooms usually grow on dead trunks of deciduous trees like oak, beech, maple and birch. They are not only fodder for animals like squirrels, but also colorful shelters for insects.

Turkey tail mushrooms. /Getty

Turkey tail mushrooms. /Getty

The most important trait of turkey tail mushrooms might be their medicinal value. The mushrooms contain antioxidants like phenols and flavonoids, which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Besides, they are used in anti-cancer drug development for the immune-boosting polysaccharopeptides extracted from the mushrooms.

Alien Fungi

What is the most ancient land-based life after bacteria? Fungi! An industrious decomposer in the natural world, fungi have existed for almost a billion years, at least 500 million years older than the first land plants. In the series "Alien Fungi," CGTN explores some peculiar-looking fungi with alien features and observes how they enjoy their eternal, cryptic lives on damp floors, decaying wood and hidden areas.

Read more:

Common puffball: The pear-shaped fungi that release gas

Stag's horn fungus

Dead man's fingers

Porcelain fungi: Glistening translucent beauties

Cup fungi: The little cups

Ink caps: The mushrooms with dripping ink

Coral mushroom: The corals of the land

Do you dare to eat these violet mushrooms?

Death cap: The deadly fungi with a harmless look

Fly agaric: The mushroom that inspired 'Alice in Wonderland' creators

Bioluminescent fungi: The mushrooms that glow in the dark

Bridal veil stinkhorn: A girlish mushroom that loves to wear 'skirt'

Bird's nest fungi: Dandelion-like drifting life

Barometer Earthstar: The fallen star praying for moisture

(All images via Getty)

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