Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mushroom - Ganoderma tsugae

Ganoderma tsugae mushroom - found 11/2014
This Ganoderma tsugae polypore, also referred to as the "Hemlock varnish shelf," was found growing on a moss-covered hemlock snag.  It was huge in size, measuring 19 inches (43cm) by 16 inches (40cm)!  My husband and I were driving through the woods when I spotted it and he offered to trek out and get it for me.  The deep, rusty maroon color was just stunning, and I imagined getting some beautiful red shades of color from it.

These pictures show where it was growing and it's immense size:

This mushroom had probably been growing for years, making it tough.  The upper crust was a very hard, thin, crispy layer, looking like it had been shellacked.  The meat of the mushroom was white and very rubbery, requiring either a very sharp knife to cut through it, or an axe to chop into pieces that can be handled.
Ganoderma tsugae mushroom underside

I opted for the axe and started by chopping it in two, revealing the white flesh and dark, rusty-brown pores or tubes, which were about 1 1/2 inches deep.  I chopped one-half of the mushroom into chunks I could hold in the palm of my hand, then began peeling the top red layer off each piece, and slicing the pores away from the white flesh.  The top layer and pores I cut into small chunks for the dye pot, and covered them with water, letting it set for the night.  The white meat was set aside to discard. 
Ganoderma tsugae mushroom - dark rusty, brown pores

The next morning I brought the dye pot to a simmer and let it simmer 2-3 hours before turning it off to let it cool.  Later, I divided the liquid into three different dye pots.  One pot would be left alone, one I added a cup of vinegar, the other I added 2 tsps. of washing soda.  Some mushrooms are pH sensitive and will yield vastly different colors than you might imagine.  That is what I was hoping for.

Three skeins of alum-mordanted yarn were pre-wetted, then added to the dye-baths, one skein in each pot.  These simmered for 1-2 hours.  I was disappointed to see that the color was nothing more than a light golden brown, and there was almost no difference in the color of the skeins.
Ganoderma tsugae - Vinegar (left), plain (center), Soda wash (right)
Next, I decided to tweak two of the dye baths.  To the vinegar bath I added 2 tsps. of copper mordanting salts.  To the soda-wash bath I added 2 pinches of iron, hoping to push the colors to green and gray, respectively.  That didn't happen.  Then I combined all three dye baths into one pot and added the first skein from the original, untouched bath.

While not the reds that I had hoped for, I like these dusky, brown shades of color more than the golden brown.  The iron skein is on the left, copper in the middle, and the combined baths on the right.  The colors are actually a little darker than the picture indicates, with just a hint of olive in the two skeins from the copper and the combined pots. 
Ganoderma tsugae - Iron (left), Copper (center), Combined (right)

Note:  Later I read that adding ammonia to the dyebath will yield rust color.  Next time!


  1. I like the golden brown, but I understand how it is disappointing when the polypore is so red. We have here a different sort of Ganoderma which I have been meaning to try, though I suspect it gives the same colors as yours. It is good to know that vinegar or soda didn't change the color.

  2. Yes, Leena, I was surprised that neither the vinegar nor washing soda effected a change. I still have the other half of the mushroom. Maybe I will try soaking chunks in some alcohol and see if it yields any red.