Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
from the January 3, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
THE "RED FUNGUS"
It being the early dry season here, not many fungi are conspicuous. However, among the few species who do catch the eye is the small, tough-leathery shelf fungus with a red cap and growing on wood shown above.
Notice how the fruiting body on the right has simply grown around a dry leaf that was in its way as it expanded. The fungi in the picture are about 1-½ inch across (4 cm).
Without having a microscope, the best I can determine is that this is probably PYCNOPORUS SANGUINEUS, described on one Internet page as a "poisonous pan- tropical white-rot fungus that recycles lignin." "Pan-tropical" means "found in the tropics worldwide." Several species are very similar, but its small size, commonness and its many-pored undersurface all suggest this species. Its undersurface and stem are shown below:
Herbs that are poisonous in one context often turn out to be of medicinal value in other contexts, and that seems to be the case with poisonous Pycnoporus sanguineus. Derivatives of this fungus serve as antibiotics against many of the most important pathogens by inhibiting specific metabolic pathways. Also they are used to absorb certain heavy metals in the blood stream.
The fungus's role in Nature of breaking down lignin apparently can be transferred to the bioremediation service of breaking down crude oils at oil-spills.
The species also occurs in Florida in the US.