What You Should Know
Hydnellum peckii is a mushroom found in North America, Europe, Iran, and Korea. It is a hydnoid species that produces spores on vertical spines or tooth-like projections hanging from its fruit bodies. The mushroom grows on the ground near coniferous trees, either alone, scattered, or in fused masses. Its fruit bodies usually have a funnel-shaped cap with a white edge, but the shape can vary. Young fruit bodies can "bleed" bright red guttation droplets containing a pigment with anticoagulant properties. Although not poisonous, the mushroom is so bitter that it is inedible. Some Hydnellum species produce yellow or coffee-colored drops instead of red. Dead fruiting bodies can produce new growth later in the season. The tough flesh develops slowly, allowing for easy identification over several months.
Natural dyers value this mushroom for its ability to create a beige dye when dried alone or a blue-green hue when combined with mordants, such as alum or iron.
The fungus contains atromentin, which is similar to heparin, an anticoagulant. It also may have anti-bacterial properties. Thelephoric acid is another chemical that may have potential uses in treating Alzheimer's disease. Don't let the creepy appearance of the young fungus deter you from its potential medical benefits.
Other names: Bleeding Hydnellum, Bleeding Tooth Fungus, Red-Juice Tooth, Devil's Tooth, Bile Tooth, Strawberries & Cream, German (Scharfer Korkstacheling), Netherlands (Bloeddruppelstekelzwam).
Hydnellum peckii Mushroom Identification
Characterized by a teeth-like hymenium, rather than gills or pores on the underside of the cap. Fruit bodies growing closely together often appear to fuse together (this is called "confluence"). They can reach a height of up to 10.5 cm (4+1⁄8 in). Fresh fruit bodies exude a striking, thick red fluid when they are moist, present even in young specimens, which are lumplike in appearance. The "teeth" covering the cap's underside are specialized structures that produce spores.
The cap's surface is convex to flattened, more or less uneven and sometimes slightly depressed in the center. It is usually densely covered with "hairs" that give it a texture similar to felt or velvet; these hairs are sloughed off in age, leaving the caps of mature specimens smooth. Its shape varies from somewhat round to irregular, 4 to 10 cm (1+5⁄8 to 3+7⁄8 in), or even as much as 20 cm (7+7⁄8 in) wide as a result of confluence. The cap is initially whitish, but later turns slightly brownish, with irregular dark-brown to nearly black blotches where it is bruised. In maturity, the surface is fibrous and tough, scaly and jagged, grayish brown in the upper part of the cap, and somewhat woody.
The spines are slender, cylindrical and tapering (terete), less than 5 mm (1⁄4 in) long, and become shorter closer to the cap edge. They are crowded together, with typically between three and five teeth per square millimeter. Pinkish white initially, they age to a grayish brown.
The stem is thick, very short, and often deformed. It becomes bulbous where it penetrates the ground, and may root into the soil for several centimeters. Although it may reach up to 5 cm (2 in) in total length, and is 1 to 3 cm (3⁄8 to 1+1⁄8 in) wide, only about 0.1 to 1 cm (1⁄16 to 3⁄8 in) appear above ground. The upper part is covered with the same teeth found on the underside of the cap, whereas the lower part is hairy and often encases debris from the forest floor.
The flesh is a pale pinkish brown.
The odor of the fruit body has been described as "mild to disagreeable", or, as Banker suggested in his original description, similar to hickory nuts.
Hydnellum peckii establishes a mutualistic relationship with certain trees, exchanging minerals and amino acids from the soil for fixed carbon from the tree. It grows on the ground under conifers from late summer till autumn, often among mosses and pine needle litter, either alone, scattered, or in clusters. It is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest of North America, but is also distributed in other parts of North America and Europe. Recently, it has been reported in Iran and Korea. H. peckii is a late-stage fungus that prefers mature hosts in boreal forests dominated by jack pine and has a preference for mountainous or subalpine ecosystems.
The spores of Hydnellum peckii are brown, roughly spherical with small nodules on their surface, and range in size from 5.0–5.3 by 4.0–4.7 µm. They are inamyloid, meaning they do not absorb iodine when stained. The hyphae that form the cap are translucent, smooth, and thin-walled, with a thickness of 3–4 µm. They have cellular compartments and clamp connections, and form an intricate tangle with a longitudinal tendency. The basidia, which are the spore-bearing cells in the hymenium, are club-shaped, four-spored, and measure 35–40 by 4.7–6 µm. The collapsed hyphae can be revived with a weak solution of potassium hydroxide.
Hydnellum peckii Look-Alikes
The latter has a mild taste instead of a hot one. However, under a high-powered microscope, significant differences in hyphal structure can be observed: H. peckii has clamps on the septa, which are absent in H. ferrugineum.
It is tan in color and lacks concentric zones. Its spines are adnate to the stem rather than decurrent.
Could be confused with some species of Hydnellum when it is young and shapeless. During this stage, it also releases droplets of red exudation, and the hymenium, which is made up of more or less angular pores, is not yet visible.
The differences between the two species are amplified in mature specimens: H. diabolus has an irregularly thickened stem, while the stem of H. peckii is thickened by a "definite spongy layer". Additionally, old specimens of H. peckii have a smooth cap, while H. diabolus is tomentose.
Hydnellum peckii Taxonomy and Etymology
American mycologist Howard James Banker (1866-1940) coined the name Hydnellum peckii for a mushroom species in 1912. The generic name, Hydnellum, is derived from the ancient Greek word "hudnon" meaning edible mushroom, which was originally used to refer to truffles. Meanwhile, the specific epithet "peckii" is in honor of American mycologist Charles Horton Peck (1833-1917), who described around 3000 fungi species in North America. To cite Peck as the author when mentioning a botanical or mycological name, the standard abbreviation "Peck" is used.
Hydnellum peckii Synonyms
Calodon diabolus (Banker) Snell 1956
Calodon peckii (Banker) Snell & E.A. Dick (1956), Lloydia, 19, p. 163
Hydnellum carbunculum Secretan ex Banker (1906), Memoirs of the Torrey botanical Club, 12(2), p. 151
Hydnellum diabolus Banker 1913
Hydnellum rhizopes Coker 1939
Hydnum diabolus (Banker) A.H. Sm. 1925
Hydnum peckii (Banker) Saccardo & Trotter (1925), Sylloge fungorum omnium hucusque cognitorum, 23, p. 470
Hydnellum peckii Video
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