What is a tinder fungus or tinder mushroom?

The Tinder fungus is a tree fungus that mainly grows on dead birch and beech trees. It has versatile uses, such as tinder.

from Martin Gebhardt | Plants / fungi | reading time 4 Min
Updated on 21 February 2024 57.726 views 92% found this guide helpful
What is a tinder fungus or tinder mushroom?

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • The Tinder Fungus is a tree fungus that mainly grows on dead birch and beech trees and has versatile uses.
  • Previously, the Tinder Fungus was used as tinder for making fire, for wound dressings, and in shipbuilding.
  • Today, the Tinder Fungus is used as a medicinal mushroom, in cosmetics, and in dietary supplements.
  • The Trama layer inside the fungus is an excellent tinder for bushcraft and survival.
  • To use the Trama as tinder, it must be dried and finely processed.
  • The Tinder Fungus can also be charred to make it even more flammable.

Well-functioning tinder is worth its weight in gold in the wilderness.

Today, you will learn what a tinder fungus is and how to use it as tinder.

But not only that - I will show you what else the inconspicuous tinder fungus can do and what it is used for.

What is a Tinder Fungus?

A tinder fungus is a tree fungus that mainly grows on dead birch and beech trees. It is also called tinder mushroom. The tinder fungus is versatile and can be used, for example, with its special fungus-like layer on the inside, which is used as tinder. This layer is called "trama" in technical terms.

In the picture, you can see a tinder fungus on a dead birch tree.

Tinder fungus on a dead birch tree
Tinder fungus on a dead birch tree

Nomenclature

The tinder fungus is often also called tinder mushroom. So, it can happen that the word is used ambiguously. I mean the same thing with tinder fungus and tinder mushroom.

The name tinder fungus comes from the fact that it was typically used as tinder in the past. And the word fungus comes from the fact that mushrooms can store a lot of water.

Facts about the Tinder Fungus

The tinder fungus can live for many years. 10 years is not uncommon. The diameter can be up to 30 cm.

Depending on its age, the tinder fungus weighs up to 15 kg.

The fungus is widespread in Asia, North America and Europe.

Furthermore, the tinder fungus is not poisonous, but rather inedible. It has a hard and woody consistency and tastes somewhat bitter.

Tinder fungus on a birch tree
Tinder fungus on a birch tree

History

For more than 10,000 years, the tinder fungus has been used and processed. Even "Ötzi" had a fungus with him. Not a tinder fungus, but the similar Birch Polypore.

The tinder fungus was once regularly used as a fire starter, to the extent that the fungus was greatly suppressed in Germany. It even had to be imported from Eastern Europe.

Today, the tinder fungus is only harvested sporadically in Germany. The fruiting bodies of German mushrooms are often too small, and the ratio of usable Trama to unusable parts is much higher than in Eastern European regions.

Forestry Importance

The tinder fungus is an important fungus in the forest.

Through its wood decomposition process, the nutrients of the tree return to the natural cycle. This creates new topsoil.

Structure of the Tinder Fungus

If you remove the tinder fungus from the tree and open it, three different layers come to light.

  • the mycelial core
  • the pore layer
  • the Trama

In the picture here, you can see the structure in more detail.

Structure of the tinder fungus
Structure of the tinder fungus

The Tinder Fungus - versatile in use

The tinder fungus was once a versatile fungus. I list the most important uses below:

  • Until the 19th century, hemostatic and disinfectant wound dressings were made from tinder fungus.
    • promotes wound healing
    • fights inflammation
  • Alcoholic fluid extracts were made for bladder problems, indigestion, and other ailments.
  • In the past, the Trama was used in shipbuilding to seal boat planks (e.g., in Romania).
  • All waste generated during production can be used as effective incense, for example, to fumigate beehives or repel insects.
  • Used as a smoking material to preserve food, such as fish.
  • Use the soft pieces of the Trama to clean your glasses, magnifying glass, or camera lens.
  • The mushroom can be ground and dried to make a tea infusion.

The tinder fungus is also used to produce "vegan leather" (more information here), which is incredibly helpful in minimizing mass animal farming.

Here is a fascinating video about the mushroom:

Today, the tinder fungus is sold as a medicinal mushroom or vital mushroom.

  • in cosmetics
  • in dietary supplements
  • as animal feed

The mycelial core is also believed to have anti-cancer properties, as do other tree fungi, such as the Chaga mushroom.

The Tinder Fungus as Tinder for Bushcraft and Survival

For bushcraft enthusiasts and survivalists, the tinder fungus is an excellent source of tinder.

The loose, felty middle layer of the mushroom, called the Trama, is what ultimately becomes the tinder. The best piece is the one above the mycelial core because it is the thickest.

Unfortunately, you cannot use the tinder (or Trama) right away. It still needs to be dried because, like any tinder, it must always be very dry.

Die Trama im Zunderpilz ist toller Zunder
Die Trama im Zunderpilz ist toller Zunder

Follow these steps to access the loose felty Trama:

  • Halve the tinder fungus
  • Then cut a thin slice from the middle section
  • Remove the pore layer and the hard edge
  • Pull the Trama apart alternately until it is fine and fibrous
  • Then dry the tinder

Once the tinder is properly dried, it will catch sparks from your striker or Firesteel wonderfully.

But the tinder fungus is also excellent for a burning glass (magnifying glass). Check out my 8 tips on how to start a fire with the sun.

You can then transfer the glowing tinder fungus to your tinder nest (hay, birch bark, or other fine flammable fibers). Blow on it and let the ember ignite your tinder nest.

When the Trama is loose and fibrous, it is suitable for tinder
When the Trama is loose and fibrous, it is suitable for tinder

Want to make the tinder even more flammable?

Get some nitrate salt from the pharmacy and dissolve 4 grams of it in 100 ml of water. Now put a few drops on the already dried and fibrous tinder and let it dry again. This will make the tinder even more flammable.

Processing the Trama with Saltpeter Solution

There is a second, more elaborate method for making tinder. The tinder is also very flammable with this method.

From the beginning, let the Trama soak in potash or pure sifted wood ash for three weeks, covered. Pour hot water over everything while soaking.

In the past, urine was also used for this, but urine should not be used for this purpose nowadays. The whole tinder smells unpleasant and does not yield better results.

Thereafter, the half-finished tinder is further processed.

Get saltpeter solution (potassium nitrate, NOT nitric acid) from the pharmacy for this.

50 g of saltpeter solution is mixed with 200 g of water. In this solution, you soak the Trama scraps for one or more days.

Then soften the scraps by tapping them with a hammer. The fibers must be visible.

Then let it dry and you're done.

Charred Tinder Fungus

The tinder fungus can be charred just like cotton or Punk Wood.

The charred parts are just as flammable, and you can even use the pore layer. However, the trama layer is the best for tinder. The pore layer is useful for bow drilling.

In my video, I show you how it works.

Summary

The tinder fungus is a great mushroom for me.

Unfortunately, it has been forgotten, although it is versatile.

For bushcraft and survival, it makes fantastic tinder.

On your next forest walk, keep an eye out for the tinder fungus.

If you are keen to learn more about tinder and fire starting, check out my book "Die Feuer-Fibel (in German)".


I am burning with curiosity whether you have ever used tinder fungus as tinder.

Tell me in the comments below!

Also read: Survival Basics: Collecting and Making Tinder [18 Examples]

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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