A friend has asked me if I could help him identify this. He photographed it in Weald Park in Brentwood a few days ago. It was growing both inside a rotting tree, and higher up some live ones too (he thinks maybe oak, but can't remember). We thought it looked like Pycnoporus cinnabarinus, but the underside of our specimen looks a bit pale for that, and since it's supposed to be rare in England, we wondered if it might be a more common species. We'd be very grateful for an ID.
My fungi bothering colleague tells me that this is the Beefsteak fungus, Fistulina hepatica, which is what I would have said in passing - but not with any level of confidence. I understand that the appropriately named Beefsteak fungus is edible, but probably in the same way that you could make a 'nice' broth from the soles of your shoes if times get hard (or have I been watching too much Laurel & Hardy )
That's it! I had previously discounted Beefsteak Fungus as I've never seen one in real life, only in photos, where it looks smooth and shiny, just like a piece of raw liver (it's aptly named). The young specimens are quite different. I forgot about the trap of juvenile forms When he gets back from his foreign travels, I'll ask my friend to locate the fungi again and cut into it. If it exudes red blood-like drops, that should confirm it.
I eat a lot of wild fungi, but I might pass on this one as I've heard the same as you about its culinary properties. It's said to improve if you soak it in milk for 24 hours first, but even onions and garlic can't mask the acrid taste, which Richard Mabey compares to unripe tomatoes. But some people claim to have quite a taste for it, so maybe it really is all in the preparation.
Thanks to your ID I had a look around to find if there was any more uses for this unappealing growth. The tannic acid it contains stains the wood it grows on to a rich dark brown, which is much sought after by cabinet makers.
Thanks again for the ID, though I have to say that it's impossible to watch too much Laurel and Hardy <g>