Description and Characteristics
Hoof fungus is a non-edible tough fungus that forms large fruiting bodies, with pores or tubes on the underside, and usually becomes hoof-shaped as it ages, thus the name. Its color ranges from brown, silvery grey to blackish and it persists for many growing seasons. It has a fruity smell and its flesh is acrid in taste. Its oblong-shaped spores are in between lemon and yellow. It has a tough woody upper surface (crust) that develops grayish zones, and its brown pore surface on the underside features tiny round pores. Its cross-section reveals vaguely layered tubes or flesh. This species of fungus attaches on barks of certain trees until it is dead, then it starts to initiate rotting of the tree bark making it a parasite and subsequently a decomposer. Other names for the species are Tinder fungus, Horse Hoof Fungus, and Ice Man Fungus.
Mushrooms are the ‘fruiting body’ we see growing out of the ground or wood — they are the reproductive structures of fungi while Fungi is the entire organism which mostly consists of the mycelium (roots) and the mushroom (fruit). Therefore, all mushrooms are also fungi, but not all fungi produce mushrooms.
Location and Sources
This species of fungus frequently dwells on hardwoods and does well in warm temperatures of between 27°C and 30°C but can also tolerate temperatures of up to 38°C. It can be found in Europe, Africa, North America, and Asia. In the Philippines, it is normally found in forests and in the countryside areas. There is no known plantation/farm of the said species in the country. Many are not well-aware of this species’ potential and commercial application, thus it is not being utilized in most areas where it exists. Currently, ZVNDER, a company located in Germany is known to source its materials from Transylvania, Romania where this species is propagated for commercial use.
Application and Product Output
To date, the most ancient application of this species is as a tinder as it is reported that the 5,000-year-old Ötzi the Iceman carried four pieces of this fungus and used them for lighting a fire. For centuries, hoof fungus has also been a source of medication for different cultures. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates described this species as a ‘cauterization substance for wounds’ and regarded it as helping to stop bleeding. And from then on, surgeons, barbers, and dentists found the most use for it. This fungus is said to also deal well with hemorrhoids, dysmenorrhea, and to correct bladder disorders. In China, locals used it as a laxative to stimulate bowel movement, remedy to steady nerves, and in the treatment of cancer of the throat, stomach, and uterus.
With quite a few problems including animal cruelty, toxic chemicals and CO2 emissions to the environment, production of animal leather have been criticized and discouraged by animal rights activists, environmentalists, and even fashion designers. More recently, the world of fashion has been stormed by the newly discovered application of mushrooms and fungi including that of the Hoof fungus when the “fungus leather” comes into the scene as a sustainable and environment-friendly alternative to animal leather. It is said that product designers Philip Ross and Jonas Edvard initiated the idea of making leather-like material from mushrooms for the homeware products they were working on back in 2012. After this discovery, manufacturers, designers, and product developers began to explore this sustainable alternative and textile innovation. Different species of fungi and mushrooms have different significant parts that are used in the leather making process. In the case of Hoof fungus, amadou (a spongy substance prepared from fungi) is the material produced from the species which is then used by companies like Bolt Threads and ZVNDER, in the production of fungus leather which is made into accessories like wallets, pouches, caps, bags, watch straps, and even shoes. These products are organic, gluten and chemical free, light, and have a marbled, velvety surface. Furthermore, they are said to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties and have insulating effects. With all these desirable properties, fashion designers are favoring and innovating this material in order to maximize its endless application.
Production and Sustainable Consumption
Amadou is the processed material derived from Hoof fungi which is primarily used as a fire starter but is also used as medicine, accessories, and other items. At present, only a handful manufacturers are producing this material around the world and the production is said to involve difficult processes in actuality. Ideally, the process is quite simple which involves harvesting the right quality fungus, removing its cuticle/crust layer, removing the pores leaving just the trauma layer, which is then processed with eco-friendly chemicals and dyes, then followed by drying, and finally transforming it into different product outputs. Fungi are harvested by hand, thus in a nature-friendly way. Also, mushroom and fungus leather production is considered entirely closed-loop in the fashion industry which means that the used materials come from post-consumer waste or from nature which are then recycled, repurposed, and converted into eco-friendly products. Lastly, the material or product is completely biodegradable and compostable at the end of its life. It is with no doubt that ‘fungus leather’ is more sustainable and eco-friendly compared to animal leather that’s why it is one of the sought-after materials in the world nowadays. Research and studies are conducted to explore the vast potential and development of this material.
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