Bracket Fungi: Parasites or Saprophytes?

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Updated on Aug 29, 2011

The purpose is to discover whether bracket fungi are parasites or saprophytes.

"Bracket" or "shelf" fungi can be found in wooded areas growing on the sides of trees, fashioning themselves as little shelves, perhaps for elves! Fungi do not photosynthesize, as do other plants. They get their nourishment from a host they live on. If a plant gets its nourishment from a host organism that is dead and decaying, it is called a saprophyte. If the host is a living organism, the feeding plant is called a parasite.

Are bracket fungi saprophytes, parasites, or both?

Trees have tiny tubes that transport water, nutrients, and waste throughout their system. These tubes are called xylem (which transport wastes) and phloem (which transport food). Trees grow from the outer layer just beneath the bark. The bark is not living. Our project is to locate bracket fungi and carefully chip away at the bark of the host tree and see if any "roots" or threadlike structures penetrate through the bark and into the live layer of the tree. If this is the case, then bracket fungi is most likely a parasite. If not, it is most likely a saprophyte.

Hypothesize that bracket fungi are saprophytes (or hypothesize that they are parasites, or that they are found on both live and dead trees).

  • Wooded area
  • Chisel

In a forest or wooded area, locate trees on which bracket fungi are growing. Using a chisel, carefully pry pieces of bark off the tree around the bracket fungi. Try to determine if any part of the fungi extends through the bark and into the soft, live layer of the tree. To avoid injuring the tree, do not remove too much bark.

Write down the results of your experiment. Document all observations and data collected.

Come to a conclusion as to whether or not your hypothesis was correct.

Something More

Carefully search through a large area in the forest, noting any presence of bracket fungi. Are the trees where you find the fungi dead or alive, or do you find them on both dead and live trees?