A new author today — please join me in welcoming Claire Fadul, who will be working as Botany Photo of the Day Assistant from now until April. Claire is a third-year science student. I’m very grateful to those of you who donated to the Online Education fund to help support hiring a student.
Thank you to swampr0se@flickr from Toronto, Ontario for sharing today’s photograph via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. I chose this ethereal photograph for my first entry because of how beautiful this fungus is and how intriguing as well (a big nod to swampr0se for the composition). I was very excited when Daniel allowed me to do fungi for my starting articles as they are a secret weakness of mine—secret no more!
Hericium americanum is a tooth fungus. Its common name is bear’s head tooth mushroom due to the teeth-like or icicle-like protrusions from which it disperses its spores. swampr0se notes that her particular Hericium americanum was found on a dead maple. This is indeed common among this species as it is usually found on decaying hardwoods (though it can sometimes also be seen frequenting rotting conifers), defining the species as saprotrophic. For a definition of a saprobe, please take a look at MushroomExpert.com where additional facts can be read about this fungus species, including the fascinating story about its various naming problems throughout the years.
Of course you are asking, “Is it edible?” Why yes, it is! And for all you seafood fans out there, it tastes like lobster. I have no experience in this personally, but Tom Volk certainly does, and provides some recipe suggestions in the first paragraph of his article on Hericium americanum. Sadly, for all of our hungry readers around the world, this species can only be found in eastern North America from late summer through autumn. Luckily for local readers, there are a few other species in the genus such as Hericium abietis that can be found. You can check out Edible North American Mushrooms for some cooking suggestions.
Thank you to BPotD readers for your generosity and I look forward to writing to you in the future!
Daniel adds: Botany resource link: Frequent BPotD contributor Eric Hunt sent along a link a few days ago, pointing out a story on Wired Science that uses a photograph by former UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research director Dr. Quentin Cronk (photo featured on BPotD): Ancient Fossil Flower Is Father of Sunflower Family.