In lawns, planters, on trees, shrubs or in the vegetable garden, mushrooms are very widespread but not always appreciated. Yet some of them help break down dead organic matter in your garden, playing a vital role in soil ecology.
If you have mushrooms in your garden, look on the bright side! This means that your soil is full of organic matter, which is a sign of a healthy soil. Unable to feed on their own, fungi feed on plant waste left by plants and trees (stumps, wood debris or dead leaves). In this way, they participate in the recycling of mineral elements thus making the soil more productive.
One of the most special looking fungi is Hydnellum peckii, commonly known as the bleeding tooth fungus, whose fruit bodies are found increasingly solitary, scattered or clustered on the ground under conifers, often among mosses and pine needle litter.
The fungus has a wide distribution in North America, but also Europe where its presence has been documented in many countries, However, increased pollution in central Europe (nitrogen specifically) has been suggested as a possible factor for the decline of the fungus.
Hydnellum peckii is an inedible (but non-toxic) fungus, and a member of the genus Hydnellum of the bankeraceae family. It is a hydnoid species producing spores on the surface of vertical spines or spines which hang down from the lower part of the fruit body. Young, moist fruit bodies can “bleed” a bright red fluid that contains a pigment. The unusual appearance of the young fruit bodies has earned several descriptive species common names, Hydnellum bleeding, bleeding tooth fungus, red juice tooth, and devil’s tooth.
The “teeth” covering the lower part of the hood are specialized structures that produce the spores. The upper part is covered by the same teeth found on the underside of the hood, while the lower part is hairy and debris often coats the forest floor. The fruit body odor has been described as “mild to unpleasant”, similar to nut hickory.
This organism’s odd look attracts attention immediately. However, people ignore its many uses and benefits that we’ll let you know about in this article.
Firstly, you should know that many other extremely peculiar species of fungi exist in the world, so let’s name some of them! Starting with Phallus indusiatus, an edible fungus that’s sometimes called “bamboo mushroom”. It’s found in the forests of South Asia, Africa, America and Australia. It has an amazing lace skirt that allows it to attract the attention of flies and insects that can help it disperse its spores.
Mycena chlorophos is a glow-in-the-dark fungus! It is found in subtropical Asia, Australia and Brazil. When fruiting, it produces small mushrooms with caps only reaching around 3cm each. So if you were walking past these mushrooms during the day, you’d think nothing different about them. However, this fungus possesses bioluminescent properties, which means they glow in the dark. The bioluminescence only lasts a maximum of 72 hours. Additionally, it emits a pungent smell similar to that of ammonia. It’s unique appearance and aroma makes it a popular research topic with both mycologists and biologists.
Clathrus ruber or red clathre is most often found on acidic soils, in open or ventilated areas. It is found in spring and until autumn in the South of France, Corsica and the Atlantic coast. Its toxicity has not been demonstrated, however, its foul smell is enough to repel those who are interested.
Anthurus archeri, whose carpophore of first appears as a whitish egg that grows to 4 to 6 cm in height. The egg then bursts. When conspicuously deployed, it resembles an octopus and has a foul odor. It reveals a thick base supporting 4 to 8 slender branches, arranged in a star, 10 to 12 cm long, reddish and smeared with a little sticky and brownish material. Archer’s anthurus is impressive, it is almost the size of a human hand, sometimes forming a colony. Not consumable.
Chorioactis geaster sometimes called “Devil’s Cigar” or “Texas Star” is a very rare fungus found only in parts of Texas, the United States, and Japan. It grows on the trunks or dead roots of cedars in Texas and oaks in Japan. It initially looks like a dark brown or black cigar before splitting to give way to its star shape.
Going back to the bleeding tooth fungus, which is actually very beneficial on many levels according to many scientific studies. Hydnellum peckii is a mycorrhizal fungus, and as such establishes a mutualistic relationship with the roots of certain trees (referred to as “hosts”). The symbiotic fungus feeds on the tree’s glucose, in exchange for promoting the growth of its host by providing water, minerals and protecting it from parasites.
Furthermore, analyzes on extracts of Hydnellum peckii revealed the presence of an anticoagulant effect, named atromentin and similar in biological activity to the anticoagulant good – known heparin. This compound also has an antibacterial activity, very effective in fighting against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
The fungus also contains Thelephoric acid, a pigment which has been shown to inhibit an enzyme that has a role in processing proteins in Alzheimer’s disease, and which have attracted research interest due to their potential therapeutic effects.
Finally, the bleeding tooth fungus is used as clothing dye. The fruit bodies of this and other Hydnellum species are highly prized by mushroom dyers. Colors can vary from beige when no mordants are used, to various shades of blue or green depending on the mordants added.
If the dyes for different textiles have long been made with mineral materials (eg: malachite), molluscs (murex purple), or a large number of plants (madder), it was not until the 1940s that attention was paid to the coloring properties of mushrooms, following the shortage of synthetic dyes.
It is possible to dye wool, but also silk, cotton and even paper.
After chopping the mushrooms, put them in water and let them boil for about 15 minutes. Previously, the wool will have been heated in a bath with tartar, alum and 5 liters of water. The mushroom tincture is filtered in this mixture, the different tones are obtained by varying the soaking time, the amounts of mushrooms or by diluting more. Then we rinse several times with lukewarm water, wring out and dry.
As a final point, although the fruit bodies of the bleeding tooth fungus have been described as resembling ‘Danish pastry topped with strawberry jam’, and Hydnellum species in general are not known to be poisonous, they are inedible due to their extremely bitter taste. This acridity persists even in dry samples.