R-L categories correct, but text here does not match final assessment. Updated version will be published in IUCN´s Red List June or Nov 2019.
Fomitopsis officinalis is a wood-inhabiting parasitic fungus forming distinctive conks that can be more than 50 cm long, hoof-shaped or columnar. It is widely distributed in the northern Hemisphere, mostly in subalpine, montane hypoarctic and boreal old-growth forests on large and old coniferous trees (e.g., Larix). It is commonly known as Agarikon and has since ancient times been collected for medical purposes. It is globally reported rare or extremely rare and has declined significantly during the last centuries. The species is assessed as Vulnerable under criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd because of population reduction observed in the past and projected in the future 50 years, caused by habitat loss and collection of basidiocarps for medical purposes.
Agaricum officinale (Vill.) Donk
Boletus laricis F. Rubel
Boletus officinalis Vill.
Boletus purgans J.F. Gmel.
Cladomeris officinalis (Vill.) Quél.)
Fomes fuscatus Lázaro
Fomes laricis (F. Rubel) Murrill
Fomes officinalis (Vill.) Bres.
Laricifomes officinalis (Vill.) Kotl. & Pouzar
Piptoporus officinalis (Vill.) P. Karst.
Polyporus officinalis (Vill.) Fr.
Ungulina officinalis (Vill.) Pat.
Fomitopsis officinalis is a famous species known from ancient centuries as an outstanding remedy used in formal and informal medicine. For ages, this fungus has been intensively collected in significant amount which together with a decrease of habitats due to forest cutting has led to a sharp decline of its population. This species has wide distribution all over the Northern Hemisphere . However to date everywhere it is reported as rare or extremely rare and declining species. Red-listed at least in 8 countries. Included in Red Data Books of 13 regions of Russia.
It is a Holarctic species with predominantly montane hypoarctic and boreal distribution. It is known from North America (mainly Pacific Northwest Coast), Europe (especially mountain areas), Ural, Asia (Siberia, Far East, China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, India), and Africa (Morocco Atlas Mts). The species distribution approximately coincides Larix spp in Eurasia and Larix, Pseudotsuga and some species of Picea in North America.
Fomitopsis officinalis has declined significantly during the last centuries. There are many records from different countries and continents about continuing reduction of population and decrease of habitats compared with the first half of XX century. Here some examples: “There are 109 records of F. officinalis in British Columbia since 1940 (when data collection first began), but only 19 of those records were added in the past 20 years. It remains to be determined if the reduced sightings and collections are a result of habitat loss (reduction of old growth sites)” (Callan, 2000); ” Neuman (1914) reported that ‘‘various collectors’’ had noted Fomitopsis officinalis occurring on larch in northern Wisconsin. Although a few reports of this fungus have been confirmed from the Great Lakes region (Gilbertson and Ryvarden 1986), F. officinalis no longer is considered to occur in the Midwest’ (Lindner et al., 2006). Up to the 18th century, the species was quite frequent in Poland, in some places even very common; in the 20th century, it was almost completely eradicated and at present, only six localities are known (Łuszczyńska and Łuszczyński, 2009). “Everywhere in the Asian part of Russia, it is now a rare species. During 26 years of investigation it was found only 46 times in 26 localities. Today the species is rare in regions where it earlier was common. In Altai Murashkinsky (1939) mentioned, at the beginning of 20th century 10% of the larches were infected by L.officinalis. In 2001 we found it there only once” (Muknin et al., 2005). This species was quite common in Irkutsk region and Buryatia Republik, but during years it has been harvested (in tons) a lot for medicinal purposes. The present number of known localities in Europe is approaching 100 of which 80% are in the French and Swiss Alps. In Lithuania and Spain there are no records after 1968. In France, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia a decrease has been noticed for the last 50 to 100 years. A slight increase in the number of sites was reported in Switzerland, probably connected with ceased collecting and more sustainable forest management. In Russia, about 50 records have been reported in scientific sources, but it can be about 1000 sites or even more. The species is widespread but rare in North America. Rare in Japan, and only seen in matured Larix or Picea forests. Rare, but seen in several places including Hokkaido Pref., Shizuoka Pref., Tochigi Pref. in Japan. The species is nationally red-listed in several European countries, e.g., Austria, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Russia (regional Red Lists), Slovakia, Switzerland (Fraiture & Otto, 2015). It is protected by law in Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia. Fomitopsis officinalis has long lived mycelia in wood and long generation time (3 generations estimated to corresponds to at least 50 yrs, cf Dahlberg & Mueller, 2011). Its population is assessed to decline due to past, ongoing and projected habitat loss and continuous harvesting, with further reduction estimated to 30-50% during 50 years. The decline in the European population is assessed to be even larger, exceeding 50% (cf Muknin et al., 2005), and European assessment may qualify F. officinalis to be classified as Endangered.
Population Trend: Decreasing
Fomitopsis officinalis is a parasite that continues to live as a saprotroph after the death of the host tree. Most frequently it occurs on different species of Larix, less frequently on Pseudotsuga, Abies, Pinus, Picea, Tsuga and Cedrus. With the exception of Spain, where it was found on Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii, it occurs in Europe exclusively on larch trees: Larix decidua, L. decidua var. polonica, L. sibirica. In Asia, it grows also on L. gmelinii and L. cajanderii, and seldom on Pinus sibirica and P. sylvestris. In North America, it was found also on Pseudotsuga menziesii, Picea sitchensis, Pinus ponderosa, and Larix occidentalis. It obviously prefers old and thick trees and hence old-growth forests predominantly in mountain areas. It causes brown rot of wood. Perennial basidiocarps have a long life up to 60-70 years (Bondartsev, 1953). They grow up to 40x65 cm (Mukhin et al., 2005) and can reach weight up to 10 kg (Chlebicki, 2001). They appear on the host tree trunk from the base up to over 20 m above, rarely on thick branches, usually in the place of infection after a few decades of its development (Konev, 1972). The fungus can occur both on living trees and on their trunks and stumps after death.
In Europe, the species is associated mainly with virgin/old growth subalpine larch forests in the Alps, larch forests in the Świetokrzyskie Mts and lowland larch forests of Eastern Europe. It occurs almost exclusively in natural forests (very rarely in plantations or in parks) (Fraiture and Otto, 2015). It is found most frequently on the trees suffering from environmental stress (suboptimal habitat, weakening caused by abiotic reasons or damage, the presence of some other fungal parasites) (Piętka and Szczepkowski, 2011).
Logging of subalpine forests, cutting of larch forests and single old veteran trees of Larix spp. and other conifer hosts (also as part of regular management and removing infested/injured/ill-shaped trees). Changes in the age and tree species structure of forests, degradation and loss of habitats due to different economic purposes (logging, building of tourists and sports constructions). Collecting of basidiomata for medicinal purposes.
Establishment of areas protected by law (national parks, nature reserves, etc.) covering the places of the species occurrence, active protection promoting the presence of Larch and its regeneration. Prohibition of logging and removing of single old larch trees (and other hosts). Prohibition of unlimited fruitbodies collecting, especially for trade. Strict control of the fungus trade.
Molecular research of F. officinalis specimens from different continents and parts of the world to check conspecificity. Inventory studies and monitoring of known sites. Studies on biology and ecological specificity; exploring the possibilities of reintroduction.
The basidiomata have been widely used since ancient times for medical purposes. They were believed to posses antiviral and actibacterial properties, and to be a panaceum for all ailments (see Piętka and Szczepkowski, 2004 for detailed review).
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Mukhin V.A., Kotiranta H., Knudsen H., Ushakova N.V., Votintseva A.A., Corfixen P., Chlebicki A. 2005. Distribution, frequency and biology of Laricifomes officinalis in the Asian part of Russia. Russian Journal of Mycology and Phytopathology, 39 (5): 34–42.
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