Paper Made From Bracket Fungi

Condensed from Mycologist, Volume 11, Issue 2, May 1997, Pages 52–54
Anna King and Roy Watling

Paper-making from all kinds of plant and recycled material has enjoyed an enormous vogue during the last decade. Plant-based papers however rely on the use of caustic soda to break down the cellulose and chlorine-based bleach to lighten the resulting pulp. The greatest appeal of using polypores, apart from the end-product, is the absence of chemicals in the technique. This is because the fungal wall has a totally different structure to that of plants, being based on fungus chitin, a nitrogenous building block.

Bracket fungi like their other relatives in the Polyporales may be classified by the hyphal structure, viz. whether the hyphae are thin-walled (generative), thick-walled (skeletal) and branched (binding) and the mixtures of two (dimitic) or three (trimitic) hyphal types. If only generative hyphae are present the fungus is termed monomitic. By trial and error over two years the best papers appear to be made from trimitic polypores but of course there are some exceptions.

Daedalea quercina
Corky texture, benefitted from soaking. Blended well and fluffed up - easily doubled in volume with some denser flecks. Good suspension in vat and couched well. A smooth, suede-like quality to the finished paper with irregular flecks of denser material. Opaque.
Fomes fomentarius
Hard as a rock. Soaked for weeks, then liquidised with the blender. Pulp very fibrous and stringy, but it handled reasonably well. Paper mid-fawn, with tan fibres. Opaque, slightly brittle.
Gandoderma applanatum
Very tough to break up, so soaked for a week. Fluffed up well in the blender, good suspension in the vat. Handled well, couched easily. Paper very dark chocolate-brown. Opaque, dense, silky , slightly textured.
Lenzites betulina
Long time to break down in blender but eventually yielded copious quantities of a rich cream-coloured pulp. Behaved and handled very well. Paper with soft silky quality. Dense and opaque. Takes printing ink well. A very satisfactory and versatile paper.
Trametes versicolor Pulp pale grey in blender with darker flecks. Volume increased dramatically during processing. Very easy to handle. Creamy white paper with tiny dark speckles. Most attractive and usable paper, translucent.
Piptoporus betulinus
Behaved well in the blender, fluffed up, doubled in volume, little flecks of pale brown in the pulp. Easy to handle and couches well. Good bonding. Dense, matt, white opaque paper. Becomes brittle with age. Good vehicle for adding other pulps.
Polyporus squamosus
Has to be used very fresh. Rather slimy pulp containing irregular-sized fragments. Reasonably easy to handle. Couched and bonded well. Strange, skin-like, translucent quality to the paper which is yellowish/fawn in colour, with flecks of lighter and darker material.
Bjerkandera adusta
Pulped well, but felt gritty on cotton sheets. Like tissue in texture, grey-fawn , with dark grey-brown flecks. Crackly and translucent.