I wrote a post a few years ago about various fungi that can be used as a tinder, including King Alfred’s Cakes (Daldinia concentrica). They get their name from the legend of King Alfred who, whilst in hiding from the Danes, let some cakes burn, and they do indeed have that appearance.
Here in Kent they’re also known as cramp balls due to their traditional herbal use in an infusion to relieve cramps. I’ve also come across them being called coal balls.
I tend to find them most often on dead ash but I’ve also found them on dead beech. Typically I flick them and if they feel solid, well they probably are; if they feel soft, they most likely are soft and of no use. They’re a great fire lighting resource when you’re on your outdoor adventures and because they’re so easy to identify and find it’s worth taking a little time and practicing how to light a King Alfred’s Cake with a variety of ignition methods.
We teach how to prepare and use fungus as tinder, including how to light a King Alfred’s Cake, on our 2 Day & 5 Day Bushcraft Courses, the IOL Bushcraft Competency Course and also our 2 Day & 5 Day Survival Courses. You can see plenty of photos from all of these courses on our Facebook page.