Dyer’s polypore a mushroom to dye for

You don’t want to eat dyer’s polypore. It’s tough and hairy — and possibly poisonous to boot.

But dye-makers swoon over the mushroom, and not because they accidentally take a bite. The mushroom imparts gorgeous colors to yarn.

The mushrooms, which are widespread on the West Coast, usually sprout in late summer or fall. When young, they’re soft and spongy. When old, they’re tough and woody. The felt-like covering on them has earned them the nickname, “velvet top fungus.”

Their color ranges from orange to yellowish to green-yellow when growing. The colors turn brown to dark brown as the mushrooms get older.

You’ll find them growing by themselves or in groups on or near conifer trees, living and dead. Regionally, they grow on or near Douglas fir and pine trees.

Foresters worry about their presence. The mushrooms’ mycelium, thread-like tubes that sort of look like roots, attack the roots and wood of trees, causing rot that weakens the trees — making it easier for wind to blow them over.

Sources: Erin Moore of the Northwest Mushroomers Association; “Mushrooms Demystified,” by David Arora; Natural Resources Canada