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The Chaga Mushroom

by Signe Tollefsen



When I was asked to photograph the Chaga Mushroom, the first things I wondered was what it was and what it was called in Swedish. I googled it, and saw a black non-mushroom-like thing that grows on trees, called sprängticka in Swedish, and Inonotus obliquus in Latin.

I learned from my boyfriend that the Chaga Mushroom is a very rare, hard to find mushroom, much sought after and very valuable on the market. Great, I thought, and knowing my luck, I would never find one. But, my boyfriend continues, my ex-boss hunts these and I’m was sure he could show you some!

So I guess it’s about who you know and having a well-stuffed karma jar.


Photo credit : Signe Tollefsen

Bengt, the man in question, recently retired and glad to receive visitors, was happy to show us some Chagas. So off we went. Bengt lives a 45-minute car ride away, in a place called Säffle, in the south of the province of Värmland, by the largest lake in Western Europe;Vänern.

When we arrived, we hopped into his car and he drove us out of the village, into the forests of Värmland. The forests of Värmland have something magical about them, in my opinion. When I saw them for the first time a few years ago, I immediately understood where fairytales came from. Especially during golden hour, when the sun’s last rays peek through the trees and cast a magical light upon the trees, the flowers, the moss, the mushrooms.






When Bengt stopped the car, I looked around to see if I could spot the mushroom we were hunting. I had learned that they are black, and grow on birch trees. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’d probably not see it:








Photo credit : Signe Tollefsen



But it’s there. And this is what it looks like from up close;

Photo credit : Signe Tollefsen


Bengt tells me that these mushrooms are so valuable not only because they are rare, but also because they are so healthy. And the reason why they are so healthy, is because they suck all the vital stuff out of the tree they are on. All the good stuff from the tree sits right there in the mushroom. The tree will eventually die; it cannot survive this parasite that slowly sucks the life out of it.

He adds that the mushroom is only worth something if it’s on a living tree. Mushrooms on a dead tree are completely worthless. Like this one:


Photo credit : Signe Tollefsen


Bengt continues by saying that underneath the mushroom is where the real beauty lies. Under the bark, closest to the wood, the blue body of the mushroom grows. Apparently it is Northern Lights-like, but unfortunately rarely seen. The reason for this, is that it can only be seen when the bark has burst, and shortly after, the body will be infested by insects which destroy it quickly.

When we got back, we were offered a typical Swedish fika, which means coffee and something to eat. Either something savoury or sweet. We were treated to his wife’s home-made kladdkaka, Swedish strawberries, and ice cream.

Bengt went and got his stash of Chaga, which he kept in a jar after drying it.



Photo credit : Signe Tollefsen


Especially in Russia, says Bengt (who didn’t want to be photographed, only from the neck down), the Chaga mushroom is used as medicin (since the 1500s!), by making tea from it. Nowadays, you can buy it at the drug store, and it is often used as medication against cancer, especially of the stomach and lungs. It even helps against ulcers.

In Scandinavia, the Sami (native people of Lapland) even used Chaga for making coffee during the Second World War.

But not only can you make tea and coffee from Chaga; creams are a popular medium also. It is said to help against eczema and other skin conditions.

Also, the Chaga Mushroom can be used to dye with. Wool, for example. Beautiful, deep autumn colours are the result of dyeing with Chaga:  



The Chaga Mushroom is found in red flower's lymphatic phytopower sea cleanser and masque: