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On either side of the path to a beautiful old bridge across the brook that runs through Roath Park Pleasure Gardens there stands a tree. Both trees are huge and old and dead but both are the source of life and habitat of choice of many a beetle and bug, and a wide range of fungi. This month, first one tree and then the other has played host to magnificent large clumps of the Giant polypore, Meripilus giganteus.

Their Latin name is most appropriate: Meri means a part and pile means caps and, not surprisingly, giganteus means gigantic, so together we have gigantic caps made of many parts. And they are gigantic! These specimens have reached a combined width of perhaps half a metre but it is not unknown for a single cap to grow that wide. Another common name for this fungus is Black-staining polypore as the pore surface will stain dark brown or black when bruised. Giant polypores are most often found on beech trees and stumps but will also parasitise the roots of various other broadleaf trees, in Britain and much of Europe. If this looks familiar to my North American readers, it’s because a related fungus, Meripilus sumstinei, can be found on your trees.

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