by Michelle Hollenkamp
If you happen across this microbe of the month, it’s unique appearance may cause you to take a step back. Young Hydnellum peckii, commonly called the bleeding tooth fungus, oozes or “bleeds” a thick, red fluid through pores on the cap of its fruiting body. The droplets are referred to as guttules. As if the characteristic isn’t scary enough, H.peckii have 2-5mm spines, similar to teeth, on the underside of their cap. As these fungi mature, they become less descript becoming turning gray or brown in color.
H.peckii belong to the Aphyllophorales order and the Hydnaceae family. They are widely dispersed in Europe and the Pacific Northwest, commonly in association with conifers and can be found among moss and pine litter. They fruit in the summer months as a solitary or fused fruiting bodies. These fungi are mycorrhiza, living in symbiosis with vascular plant roots. Despite their rather unjarring appearance, H.peckii are non-toxic. However, their taste has been described as bitter pepper deeming it inedible. This fungus does have several beneficial uses. The mushroom of H. peckii contains atromentin, which has antibacterial and anticoagulant properties. Additionally, the oozing red “blood” can be used to dye fabrics. Though these species are not found in Colorado, other Hydnellum species can be seen in the Rocky Mountains.
“Bleeding Tooth Fungus.” National Geographic, 2015. <http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/nature/the-bleeding-tooth-fungus.aspx>
Evenson, Vera Stucky. “Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains.” Big Earth Publishing, 1997.
Holden, Liz. “Scotland’s rare tooth fungi: an introduction to their identification, ecology, and management. Plantlife International, 2008.