A Forager’s Guide to Ganoderma Applanatum (Artist’s Conk)

Ganoderma applanatum is a widely distributed white rot fungus found on both living and dead trees and is considered inedible in its natural state. The plant produces a perennial conk or fruiting, primarily used for artistic purposes. Artists can create beautiful sketches without using a pen, pencil, or paint by lightly scratching the surface of the pores. 

Ganoderma applanatum (artist’s conk) profile

Scientific nameGanoderma applanatum
Spore printBrown spores to orangish/reddish brown

Common names include:

  • artist’s bracket
  • artist’s conk
  • artist’s fungus
  • bear bread

In most North American field guides, this species is identified as Ganoderma applanatum, but in western North America, it is generally referred to as Ganoderma brownii. There is no difference in appearance.

Why is it called artist’s conk/artist’s bracket?

Artist’s conk is named after the natural canvas on the underside of the fruiting body. When handled, this large, woody bracket fungus stains brown due to its mostly flat white pore surface.

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As a result, the mushroom is an ideal medium for artists. By etching into this surface, the brown bruising contrasts sharply with the white color of the rest of the body, allowing you to create beautiful, natural drawings.

Can you eat Ganoderma applanatum?

Even though Ganoderma applanatum is edible, its woody and hard flesh make it difficult to consume. 

It is commonly used to make fungal tea and tinctures and to make fire when camping. 

Where is Ganoderma applanatum found?

This is a very common fungus widespread throughout North America and the world, but it is primarily found in temperate and tropical regions.

Ganoderma applanatum grows on hardwood and deciduous trees in clusters or individually. 

As parasites, Ganoderma species are saprobic on wood of hardwoods and conifers and are very picky about their substrates, rarely crossing the hardwood/conifer line and sometimes limiting themselves to a few species.

How to identify artist’s conks

Conks of Ganoderma applanatum are fan-shaped polypore mushrooms that grow from dead logs in something akin to a shelf. 

Conks produced by G. applanatum can reach a diameter of 29 inches, although average specimens are much smaller. 

G. applanatum forms perennial fruiting bodies, which allow the conks to grow larger and larger each year. By cutting the mushroom in half and counting the layers of pores, you can determine the age of the mushroom.

Despite its large size, Ganoderma applanatum has a rather unimpressive appearance. The pileus surface is usually flat, matte brown, lumpy, and zonate. 

Ganoderma bottomside
Ganoderma bottomside

Underneath, the mushroom is smooth, bright white, and contains tiny pores (four to six per 0.03 inch). 

G. applanatum is typically thicker in the middle and thinner on the sides, resulting in a somewhat curved lower surface. 

The most exciting feature of the mushroom is that the upper surface of the pores instantly turns brown when touched.

Artist's conk
Artist’s conk

What else is Ganoderma applanatum used for?

Apart from its uses as a canvas for artists, this fungi has many reported medicinal uses that cannot be ignored. Artist’s conk has a long history of use in traditional medical systems, with no attested side effects. 

A staple of Eastern/Asian medicine for quite some time, it is used to treat insomnia, anorexia, muscle issues, and other conditions.

Listed below are some of the unique benefits of this medicinal mushroom. 

1. A Boosted Immune System

The Ganoderma applanatum has an important effect on the immune system. Although research is still in progress, studies have shown that the fungus can affect the genes in white blood cells. 

Moreover, the fungus may improve the function of lymphocytes responsible for fighting infection. 

2. Protection Against Mental Health Issues

Many experts agree that this mushroom helps reduce depression and fatigue and improves the quality of life.

A study on neurasthenia, which includes symptoms such as dizziness and irritability, found that this mushroom effectively reduced fatigue and improved wellbeing within eight weeks.

3. Blood Sugar Control

According to various studies, the Ganoderma mushroom contains molecules that may reduce blood sugar levels.

There is, however, a need for further research in this area. 

4. Antioxidant properties

When used as a tea, the A. applanatum has been found to have antioxidant properties. One study found that the fungus has an extract that exerts a positive effect on the level of phenolic-type antioxidants.

How to make Ganoderma applanatum tea


  • Dried mushrooms – 3-4 grams
  • Water – 4 cups


  • Bring the water to a boil (don’t use aluminum, use a ceramic pot)
  • Add the mushroom
  • Reduce the heat until the water is simmering, not outright boiling
  • Let it simmer for 2 hours
  • Remove from the heat, strain, and set aside
  • You can repeat the process with the strained mixture until the resulting concotion is no longer bitter or colored

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