Birch trees all start looking alike.  But some look different.    That is where I have my best luck.


"Maple trees usually have large growths on them, which are cut and dried in the sun, making a sort of touchwood which the Canadians call tondre."
Jolicoeur Charles Bonin,
Memoir of  French and Indian War Soldier, 1750's

 
"Tree fungi are used very frequently instead of tinder. Those which are taken from the sugar maple are reckoned the best; those of the red maple are next in quality; and next to them, those of the sugar birch. For want of these they make use of those which grow on the aspen tree.”
Pehr Kalm,
Travels in North America, 1749
Peice of tinder fungus used to start the oven.
Notice the grey ash where it is lit and burning.
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                               Documentation on the use of this firestarting material:
                                        
Qoutes from research done by Karl Koster

Their grow’s here Large Berch trees…on the Root of the branches of the Said tree, grow’s Large Knops of wood of Different form’s, which they style (posogan) which posogan is of great service to the Natives, they use itt to strike Light to, as we do touch wood… itts Substance Resembles Spunge…once Light is Very Difficult to put out…will Clow and Bur’n tell Consum’d to ashes and never Blaze.”
~James Isham, Hudson’s Bay, 1743-49

“They employ tree mushrooms very frequently instead of tinder. Those which are taken from the sugar maple are reckoned the best; those of the red maple are next in goodness, and next to them, those of the sugar birch, for want of these, they likewise make use of those which grow on the aspen tree.”
~ Peter Kalm, Canada, 1749

"Maple trees usually have large growths on them, which are cut and dried in the sun, making a sort of touchwood which the Canadians call tondre."
- Jolicoeur Charles Bonin, 1750’s 

“…fungus that grows on the outside of the birch-tree…used by all the Indians in those parts for tinder…called by the Northern Indians Jolt-thee, and is known all over the country bordering on Hudson’s Bay by the name of Pesogan…there is another kind…that I think is infinitely preferable to either. This is found in old decayed poplars, and lies in flakes…is always moist when taken from the tree but when dry…takes fire readily from the spark of a steel: but it is much improved by being kept dry in a bag that has contained gunpowder.”
~Samuel Hearne, Northern Canada, 1772

“I said to them…you Fools go to the Birch Trees and get some touchwood,”
~David Thompson, Lake Athabasca, 1790s

“This induced me to resolve not to travel more by land without my gun, powder and shot, steel, spunge and flint, for striking a fire…”
~Patrick Campbell, Canada/New York, 1792

“A Canadian never neglects to have touchwood for his pipe”
~David Thompson, Red Lake River, 1798
Tinder fungus is a wonderful period item to have in your pouch.  It needs no preparation and only a little patience, to create a bright and hot ember to start a fire.  The fresh fungus is more apt to catch and hold a spark, but older fungus can work if you scrape it into a pile and strike sparks into that pile.  A burning lense (magnifying glass) also will create enough heat to start the fungus.  

Once the fungus catches a spark and begins to glow, gently blow onto it to form a strong ember.  Then put the glowing fungus into your nest of shredded cedar and birch bark or flax tow and then gently blow to create a flame.  It also works great to stick the glowing ember into your pipe to light it.  The fungus has a wonderful incense aroma to it.

The tinder fungus is very different looking then a shelf fungus.  Shelf fungus needs preparation by first charring the inner gills in order for it to later catch a spark.

A day spent in the maple and birch forests is a day well spent.

A bountiful supply of fresh, orange tinder fungus!
Tinder conk / Bear Crap Fungus / Innotus Obliqus
Tinder Fungus