Bracket fungi, or shelf fungi, are fungi, in the phylum Basidiomycota. They produce shelf- or bracket-shaped fruiting bodies (conks) that lie in a close planar grouping of separate or interconnected horizontal rows. Brackets can range from only a single row of a few caps, to dozens of rows of caps that can weigh several hundred pounds. They are mainly found on trees, and resemble mushrooms. Some form annual fruiting bodies while others are perennial and grow larger year after year. Bracket fungi are typically tough and sturdy and produce their spores, called basidiospores, within the pores that typically make up the undersurface.
The term classically was reserved for polypores, however molecular studies have revealed some odd relationships. The beefsteak fungus, a well known bracket fungus, is actually a member of the agarics. Other examples of bracket fungi include the sulphur shelf, birch bracket, dryad's saddle, artist's conk, and turkey tail. Some species of bracket fungi are cultivated for human consumption or medicinal use. The name Polypores is often used for a group that includes many of the hard or leathery fungi, which often lack a stem, growing straight out of wood.
Their hardness means they are very resilient and can live for quite a long time, with many species even developing beautiful multi-coloured circles of colour that are actually annual growth rings.
The group includes many different shapes and forms that are common in the tropical forests, including the hard 'cup fungi' and the 'shell', 'plate' and 'bracket' fungus commonly found growing off logs and still standing dead trees.
These often grow in semi-circular shapes, looking like shelving growing out of trees or wood.
One of the more common ones, Ganoderma spp, can grow large thick shelves that may contribute to the death of the tree, and then feed off the wood for years after.