Bearded Tooth

Hericium erinaceus
Edible
Other Common Name
Lion’s Mane; Hedgehog Mushroom
Family

Hericiaceae

Description

Beardlike, whitish mass; grows on trunks of living deciduous trees and on fallen trees and logs. August–November. Fruiting body a round, unbranched mass of long, hanging, toothlike spines, each ½–2 inches long; spines hanging evenly from a central base; white, becoming yellowish; texture smooth. Stalk not present. Spore print white. Spores magnified are almost round, smooth to roughened with dots, colorless.

Lookalikes: Comb tooth (H. coralloides) has multiple branches covered with tufts of short spines and grows on decaying trees. Although another fungus, Hydnum repandum, is also called "hedgehog" and also has spines (or "teeth"), it looks very different: It has a cap and a stalk and is orangish tan.

Size

Fruiting body width and height: 3–10 inches.

bearded_tooth_04-11-13.jpg

Photo of bearded tooth, a white beardlike mushroom, growing on a rotting log
Bearded Tooth (Lion’s Mane; Hedgehog Mushroom)

Bearded Tooth

white billowy fungus growing from the bark of a tree.
Bearded Tooth growing on a tree trunk in Benton County
Habitat and conservation

Grows singly, on the trunks of living deciduous trees and on fallen trees and logs.

image of Bearded Tooth Lion's Mane Hedgehog Mushroom Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

A choice edible mushroom. The bearded tooth is tasty only when young and fresh. It gets sour and bitter as it matures.

Life cycle

This species lives as a network of cells (mycelium) within dead trees as a saprobe, and in living trees as a parasite, digesting and decomposing the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the beardlike "fruiting body" that emerges from the wood—this is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in the "teeth" and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.

Human connections

When you are eating a wild mushroom for the first time, even one that is considered a "choice edible," it is a good idea to sample only a small amount at first, since some people are simply allergic to certain chemicals in certain fungi. Make sure they are cooked, too.

Ecosystem connections

Fungi are vitally important for a healthy ecosystem. This fungus feeds off of dead or dying trees, decomposing them in the process. This cleans the forest and helps nutrients to cycle back into the soil—an unglamorous but vital role in the ecosystem.