Common liverwort (Fistulina hepatica) photo and description

Liver (Fistulina hepatica)

  • Department: Basidiomycota (Basidiomycetes)
  • Subdivision: Agaricomycotina (Agaricomycetes)
  • Class: Agaricomycetes (Agaricomycetes)
  • Subclass: Agaricomycetidae (Agaricomycetes)
  • Order: Agaricales (Agaric or Lamellar)
  • Family: Fistulinaceae (Fistulinaceae or Liver)
  • Genus: Fistulina (Fistulina or Liver)
  • Species: Fistulina hepatica (Common liverwort)


  • Hepatica ordinary

  • Liver mushroom

  • Common liverwort

  • Liver polypore

  • Mother-in-law tongue

Hepatica ordinary - Fistulina hepatica

In English-speaking countries it is called "steak" or "ox tongue". In the Russian-speaking tradition, the name "mother-in-law's language" is often found. This mushroom looks like a piece of red meat stuck to a stump or base of a tree. And it really looks like a beef liver, especially when it begins to produce blood-red juice at the sites of damage.


Hat : 7–20, according to some sources up to 30 cm in diameter. But this is not the limit, the author of this note came across copies and more than 35 cm in the widest part. Very fleshy, the thickness of the cap at the base is 5-7 cm. Irregular in shape, but often semicircular, fan-shaped or ligulate, with a lobed and wavy edge. The surface is wet and sticky in young mushrooms, dries up with age, slightly wrinkled, smooth, without lint. The color is liver-red, reddish-orange or brownish-red.

Hepatica ordinary - Fistulina hepatica

Spore-bearing layer : tubular. White to pale pinkish in color, then turns yellowish and eventually reddish brown in old age. At the slightest damage, with slight pressure, it very quickly acquires a reddish, red-brown, brown-meaty color. The tubes are clearly separated, up to 1.5 cm long, round in cross section.

Stem : lateral, poorly defined, often absent or in its infancy. It is colored from above in the color of the cap, and from below it is whitish and covered with a hymenophore (spore-bearing layer) descending to the leg. Strong, dense, thick.

Flesh : whitish, with reddish stripes, the cross section looks very nice, you can see an intricate pattern resembling marble on it. Thick, soft, watery. At the site of the incision and when pressed, it secretes a reddish juice.

Hepatica ordinary - Fistulina hepatica

Smell : weak mushroom or almost odorless.

Taste : slightly sour, but not required.

Spore powder : Pale pinkish, pinkish brown, rusty pink, pale brown.

Microscopic features : spores 3–4 x 2–3 µm. Broadly almond-shaped or subellipsoid, or sublacrimoid. Smooth, flowing.

Hyaline to yellowish in KOH.


It is saprophyte and is sometimes referred to as "weakly parasitic" on oak and other hardwoods (eg chestnuts), causing brown rot.

Season and distribution

Fruiting bodies are annual. The liverwort grows alone or in small groups at the base of trees and on stumps, from early summer to mid-autumn. Sometimes you can find a liverwort growing as if from the ground, but if you dig out the base of the stem, there will certainly be a thick root. It is widely distributed on all continents where there are oak forests.

There are several varieties, such as Fistulina hepatica var. antarctica or Fistulina hepatica var. monstruosa, which have their own narrower regions of habitat and distinctive features, but they do not stand out as separate species.

Similar species

The liver mushroom is so unique in its appearance that it is simply impossible to confuse it with any other mushroom.


The liverwort is edible. Too mature, overgrown mushrooms may have a slightly more sour taste.

One can argue about the taste of the liverwort, many do not like the texture of the pulp or sourness.

But this sour taste comes from the high vitamin C content of the pulp. 100 grams of fresh liverwort contains the daily requirement of this vitamin.

The mushroom can be cooked right in the forest, during a picnic, on the grill. Can be fried in a pan as a separate dish or with potatoes. Can be pickled.

Video about the mushroom Common liverwort:

Photos from questions in "Recognition" were used as illustrations for the article.