Fruiting body annual, stipitate, cap 2.0-5.0 cm broad, convex, becoming convex-umbillicate to funnel-form in profile, round to kidney-shaped in outline; margin incurved, decurved to nearly plane in age, often wavy, not striate; upper surface glabrous, cream to tan-brown; context up to 5 mm thick, pliant, tough, colored like the cap surface, unchanging when injured, cork-like when dried; odor slightly aromatic, sharp; taste, mild to slightly astringent.
Pores 5-6 per mm, rounded, angular to occasionally elongated into slits, descending the stipe a short distance, cream-buff when young, tan-brown at maturity, unchanging when bruised; Tubes up 2.0 mm in length, not separable from the cap.
Stipe 0.5-6.0 cm long, 4.0-8.0 mm thick, rarely absent, solid, tapering to a narrowed base, variable in attachment: central, eccentric or lateral; surface cream-buff at apex, blackish-brown below, irregularly roughened, sometimes wrinkled or checked like tree bark, occasionally peeling away revealing a brownish under-layer; context tough, pliant, colored like that of the cap, unchanging.
Spores 7.5-9.0 x 2.0-3.5 µm, oblong-ellipsoid, smooth, thin-walled, inamyloid; spores white in deposit.
Solitary or in small groups, primarily on hardwood branches or logs; fruiting from early to late winter.
Inedible, leathery, tough.
This stipitate polypore is recognized by a smooth, buff-colored cap and distinctive bicolored stipe--blackish at the base, pallid at the apex. Although sporadic in its fruiting, it is the most common member of a group of similar and confusing species. These include Polyporus varius, which has a buff-colored, striate-margined cap, Polyporus badius (= P. picipes) typically larger than P. elegans, the cap tan-brown to dark-brown cap with a stipe that is blackish at the base and brownish at the apex, and Polyporus melanopus, which tends to grow from buried wood, has a reddish-brown to dark-brown cap, and a dark colored, centrally attached stipe.