Hoof fungus (Fomes fomentarius), also known as tinder fungus, is a wood-decaying mushroom species commonly found in temperate zones of the world. It grows on living and dead deciduous trees, especially beeches and birches but also oaks, aspens, willows, and others. Fruiting bodies are hoof-shaped and grow for several years.
For thousands of years, the fruiting bodies of the hoof have been used as a source of tinder for starting fires. The iceman Ötzi, whose mummy was found in the Alps in 1991, also had a piece of hoof with him. Ötzi lived approximately 5000 years ago.
In traditional medicine, it is used to treat various illnesses, including inflammation, infections, and even cancer. Modern research has confirmed the presence of many bioactive compounds in this mushroom.
It is one of the most feared parasites of mountain beech forests, causing intensive rotting of the attacked wood.
Besides being a dangerous parasite of woody plants, it is also an important decomposer in forest ecosystems – it decomposes dead wood and returns nutrients to the soil.
Hoof has played a role in many cultures throughout history. In ancient China, for example, it was used to make paper, and in Japan to make a type of lacquer. This mushroom was also used in shamanic rituals in Siberia and other parts of northern Asia.
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