For a long time I wanted to try using tinder fungus, having seen it used to great effect by bushcrafters in the UK, but I have never come across it in the jungle and assume that it doesn’t grow here.

However there are many other bracket type fungi in Malaysia and, once you know what to look for (i.e. a trama layer), it is possible to find other species that do nearly as well. This is how I first came across Artist’s Conk which I only later identified as the same fungi used for fire lighting in Europe.

By the time I found this fungi I had convinced myself that these mushrooms would offer the magic solution to all my tinder problems – providing an instant source of spark catching material every bit as good as charcloth.

This initial excitement was soon (and quite literally)  dampened by reality – the thin strips of fungi refused to catch a spark from anything less than the (artificial) firesteel and certainly not from a weak spark thrown by a river stone struck against my parang.

Similarly the supposed magic properties of using fungi as a hearthboard for bow/hand drill sets also didn’t work as hoped – firstly the shape can make the whole business a bit awkward (as it’s difficult to get a good purchase on a mushroom without your foot getting in the way of the bow) and, secondly, unless the fungi is very dry it won’t work…

Admittedly the Artist’s Conk fungi I use is not the true tinder fungi (fomes formentarius) but, all-in-all, my first attempts were a bit disheartening.

However, there is one property of this fungi that is of great value and that works very well indeed… and that is as an ember extender. In the past I used pieces of charcoal for this but, to get charcoal you need a fire first so, from a survival perspective, not a realistic option. Nor will a piece of charcoal withstand the punishment of being put underneath a hearthboard.

With fungi you don’t need to char it and you can easily cut small (and tough) strips that fit beneath the hearthboard and provide an added boost to the ember you create.

The other handy uses for tinder fungus are 1) in conjunction with a magnifying glass – it is a quick and convenient tinder for this purpose, and 2) for carrying fire.

So, in this video I look at some of the uses of artist’s conk for firelighting and show you which part of the mushroom to use.

If you are new to using bracket mushrooms for tinder then beware of the over hype that you may hear (often written by people who think a firesteel is the same as using a flint-and-steel) and remember…

  • Don’t confuse amadou (specially processed trama layer) with the unprocessed fungi – the former will take a spark from a flint-and-steel, the latter won’t (at least not for me!).
  • Using fungi as a hearthboard requires it to be dried (often for days) and the dried fungi will quickly reabsorb moisture if you’re not careful with it.

But, most importantly, remember that this fungi offers you an easily obtained ember extender…a very useful quality indeed!