Find out how wood and fungi interact to create beautiful boards
A growing number of woodworkers are looking past the decay and discovering the beauties of spalted wood (see health note below). Spalting, the coloring or bleaching of wood by fungi, can happen to any kind of wood, but various conditions determine whether the result is a prizewinning specimen or a punky lump.
These include the types of fungi that colonize the wood, how long the fungi remain there, the interactions between different types of fungi, and the type of wood itself. There are three main types of spalting in hardwoods: white rot, pigment (commonly referred to as stain), and zone lines.
|Just for show. Because spalted wood may have lost some strength, it’s best for non-load-bearing locations such as floating panels. This cabinet, built by Chris Gochnour, uses book-matched panels of spalted maple.|
Softwoods generally don’t produce usable spalted wood as they are more susceptible to brown rot, which often degrades the wood too quickly for use.
White rot is fast but hard to control–White-rot fungi give spalted wood its white appearance by bleaching the lignin found in the walls of wood cells. However, these fungi also reduce the strength and weight of the wood. One of the most common white-rot fungi is Trametes versicolor. Commonly known as turkey tail, it grows on dead hardwoods in a fan shape in overlapping rows, and has alternating colored bands of brown, blue, yellow, red, or black.
|Turkey tail for fast spalting. Trametes versicolor, commonly known as turkey tail, grows on dead hardwood across much of North America. A white-rot fungus, it bleaches the wood quickly, but causes too much decay if not stopped in time. Photo: Sara Robinson|
It can be found from July through October in North America. Trametes versicolor is an aggressive colonizer, making it fantastic for…