Photos: Chaga businesses bloom in Alaska

Chaga may not look like much -- a lumpy, charcoal-colored bulb protruding from birch trees -- but this fungus is trending.

A cottage industry surrounding chaga is growing in Alaska. Numerous health claims are bolstering chaga businesses as demand grows both in and out of state.

It's the newest offering in Talkeetna-based Kahiltna Birchworks line-up of products.

Owners and self-proclaimed "tree-people" Dulce Ben-East and Michael East, who have made their livelihoods from selling birch syrup, say they often see the fungus as they traverse across their homestead. After watching a "surge in interest" in the fungus, the couple finally decided to start harvesting it commercially.

They began selling chaga products in July, offering it at the Alaska State Fair and craft shows.

"It really sold," Ben-East said. "People were really fascinated and happy that we had it."

READ MORE: Alaska businesses tap into health trend for birch fungus