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.
Fruiting body width and height: 3–10 inches.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows singly, on the trunks of living deciduous trees and on fallen trees and logs.
A choice edible mushroom. The bearded tooth is tasty only when young and fresh. It gets sour and bitter as it matures.
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.
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.
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.
Mushrooms are a lot like plants, but they lack chlorophyll and have to take nutrients from other materials. Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are in a different kingdom — the fungi. Fungi include the familiar mushroom-forming species, plus the yeasts, molds, smuts, and rusts.
Always be cautious when eating edible mushrooms. Be absolutely sure of the ID, and only eat a small amount the first time you try it to avoid a reaction..