Hericium americanum: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Hericium americanum Mushroom
Hericium americanum is North America's only Hericium species with long spines and a branched fruiting body. It is found only east of the Great Plains, fruiting from dead wood or live trees. Though it is more frequently found on hardwoods, it is documented on conifers.
When young, before the branches have developed, it might be confused with Hericium erinaceus.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that while Hericium americanum is the currently-accepted scientific name of the bear’s-head tooth, many people still know it by its former name, Hericium coralloides, a name now assigned to a different species, which used to be called Hericium ramosum.
Edible when young – be sure it is white. Mild nutty taste; cook before eating.
Other names: Bear's Head Tooth Fungus.
Hericium americanum Identification
Saprobic and possibly parasitic; growing alone or gregariously; fruiting on dead hardwood logs and stumps, or from the wounds of living hardwoods; documented to fruit (rarely) on conifer wood; late summer and fall; east of the Great Plains.
15-30 cm across; consisting of a tightly branched structure arising from a rooting base; with densely packed spines .5-4 cm long hanging from the branches in clusters or rows; white, or in age discoloring brownish to yellowish.
White; not changing when sliced.
Spores 5-7 x 4.5-6 µ; elliptical or subglobose; amyloid; smooth or minutely rough.
Hericium americanum Look-Alikes
Hydnum Rufescens and Hydnum repandum
Have downward-projecting spines, but they are attached to a smooth-topped cap.
Usually has a rounded fruitbody; it occurs in the USA, particularly in the southern States, and it is also found in Europe, including Britain, where it is very rare.
Iis very rare in the UK; it has a rubbery, coral-like branching fruitbody and is usually associated with beech and ash trees.
Is also very rare in the UK; it has shorter spines and a much thinner bracket-like tiered fruitbody.
Hericium americanum Taxonomy & Etymology
The currently-accepted scientific name of this species, Hericium americanum, dates from a 1984 publication by Canadian mycologist James Herbert Ginns (b. 1938). Hericium coralloides (Fr.) S. F. Gray is considered by some authorities to be a synonym of Hericium americanum; however, this is contentious (and very confusing) because Hericium coralloides (Scop.) Pers. is the accepted scientific name of Coral Tooth, another rare European fungus that is found, albeit very rarely, in Britain.
Hericium, the generic name, means pertaining to a hedgehog, and is a reference to the spiny fertile surfaces of fungi within this grouping. The specific epithet americanum indicates where this species occurs.
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