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Though fungi frequently defy the rules we humans assign to them, the Alder bracket (Inonotus radiatus) does, amazingly, almost always (note the qualifier) grow on alder trees. Sadly, its presence usually means the tree is on its last legs and the fungus itself contributes to the tree’s death by assisting white rot to form within the tree.

Yet, Alder bracket can be rather beautiful, especially when young, as it produces quite striking orangey-red globules of liquid which sparkle in the sunshine. As it matures, it develops from pale-coloured well-rounded velvet-textured fruiting bodies into the more regular shelf-like shape you would expect from a bracket fungus, and the pores on its underside become more apparent.

As it reaches old age, the bracket become rougher and tougher, the spots which once produced those gorgeous droplets develop into ugly pits, and its delicate apricot-coloured upper surface dulls to a brown so dark it looks black.