Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Hericium Sp.

Family: Hericiaceae [E-flora]

"Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), coral tooth (H. coralloides), and comb tooth (H. ramosum) mushrooms occur on both the dead wood and living trunks of broadleaf trees, whereas the conifer coral tooth mushroom (H. abietis) is found on conifers. These are among the most distinctive of all mushrooms and are not likely to be confused with members of any other group. All are very good to eat. Hericium clathroides (fungus icicles) is a species very similar to H. abietis." [EPMW Hall]

"There has been much confusion among mycologists and taxonomists in separating and naming the different Hericium species, none of which are poisonous." [CEPMNE Fergus] "Since all of these Hericiums are equally edible, their exact identities needn't concern you-at least, they don't concern me!" [MushDemyst]

Local Species

"Arora (1986) discusses nomenclatural intricacies in this genus. Hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane Hericium) is easily distinguishable because it is unbranched, usually with long spines. There are three other recognizable species in the Pacific Northwest, one white to salmon-buff when fresh, with clustered spines, and growth on conifers (conifer coral Hericium), a similar one that prefers hardwoods, and has slightly longer spores, (hardwood coral Hericium), and one with spines arranged in rows along the branches like teeth on a comb, growing on hardwoods (comb Hericium). The approach of Ginns (1993) is used here, in which the comb Hericium (H. ramosum as referred to by Arora) is called H. coralloides (Scop.: Fr.) Pers. and the hardwood coral Hericium (H. coralloides as referred to by Arora) is called H. americanum Ginns. All four species have mild ODOR and TASTE. There is a negative reaction in each case when KOH is applied to the tissues, but they give an amyloid reaction to Melzer’s reagent." [Henderson]

Key to 4 Species of Hericium in North America

1.Fruiting body consisting of one unbranched structure.............2
1.Mature fruiting body branched............3
2.Fruiting body definitely mature..................Hericium erinaceus
2. Fruiting body possibly immature; without yellowish or brownish discolorations resulting from age . . . Virtually any North American species of Hericium can look like Hericium erinaceus when immature. The branched species (below) frequently begin as a single clump of spines before developing branches--and while Hericium erinaceus has long spines, its immature spines may be fairly short, causing confusion with the short-spined species (also below)........??
3. Growing in the Pacific Northwest and northern California, on the dead wood of fir, spruce, hemlock, or Douglas-fir; mature spines about 1 cm long; young fruiting body often with pinkish shades............Hericium abietis
3.Not completely as above.............4
4.Mature spines mostly 1 cm long or shorter; growing from the dead wood of hardwoods; widely distributed.............Hericium coralloides(formerly H. ramosum)
4.Mature spines mostly longer than 1 cm; growing from the dead wood of hardwoods (occasionally conifers) or from the wounds of living trees; found east of the Great Plains......Hericium americanum(formerly H. coralloides) []


  1. [Henderson]Trial field key to TOOTHED FUNGI in the Pacific Northwest,, 1981, 2007, Accessed March 14, 2015
  2. [] Accessed March 14, 2015

Hericium abietis - Conifer Coral Hericium

"Summary: Hericium abietis forms clusters of white to salmon buff, soft, icicle-like spines on dead conifers, with spores 4.8-5.3 x 4.3-4.9 microns. It is distinguished from H. americanum and H. coralloides by habitat and spore size, and differs somewhat in form as well. Arora discusses nomenclatural intricacies in this genus, and the approach of Ginns(5) from 1993 is used here, in which H. ramosum as referred to by Arora is called H. coralloides (Scop.: Fr.) Pers. and H. coralloides as referred to by Arora, the hardwood lover similar to H. abietis with pure white color when fresh, slightly longer spines up to 4cm, and slightly larger spores, is called H. americanum Ginns. H. abietis has the distribution BC, WA, OR, ID, AK, CA, CO, and MT, (Ginns)." [E-flora]
"Spore Deposit: white (Arora, Hall)" [E-flora]
Odor & taste odor and taste mild. [Mykoweb]

Similar Species: "It is easily distinguished from other Hericiums by its white to salmon-buff color, clustered spines, and growth on conifers." [MushDemyst]

"Hericium americanum is considered to have slightly longer spines (up to 4cm), to have slightly larger spores, and to favor hardwoods, (Arora, who refers to H. americanum as H. coralloides). H. abietis in one of its growth forms (formerly Hericium weirii) is similar to Hericium erinaceus which however grows on hardwoods, (Arora). H. abietis in one of its growth forms (brevispineum) is extensively branched with very short spines ( 0.1-0.5cm) and resembles Hericium coralloides (Scop: Fr.) Pers., which, however, grows on hardwoods, (Arora who refers to Hericium coralloides as Hericium ramosum).
Hericium abietis is a spectacular find in our area. The compact branch structure covered with white teeth has been described as looking like a "frozen waterfall." It is unlikely to be confused with any other species except for related Hericiums, two of which occur locally. Hericium erinaeus, found on hardwoods, is similarly colored, but unbranched with longer teeth. Hericium ramosum, another hardwood rotter, is more loosely branched than H. abietis, and has shorter spines which tend to occupy all the branch surfaces, not just clustered on the branch tips. Once having colonized a log, Hericium abietis can be expected to produce fruiting bodies annually for several years." [Mykoweb]

Habitat / Range
"single or sometimes several together on dead conifers, especially fir and Douglas-fir, mainly in the fall, (Arora), Abies amabilis, A. concolor, A. grandis, A. lasiocarpa, A. procera, (all true fir), Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce), Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce), Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir), Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock), Tsuga mertensiana (mountain hemlock), (Ginns), on conifer logs, especially fir and hemlock, (Trudell)" [E-flora]

"Solitary to several on conifer stumps or logs; fruiting from after the start of the fall rains to mid-season." [Mykoweb]


"delicious (Arora) Edible and good." [Mykoweb] "Eminently edible, delectably delicious. When thoroughly cooked it is reminiscent of fish and is excellent sauteed, curried, or marinated. Its large size (a 100-lb. specimen was wheeled into one mushroom show!)plus its distinctive appearance make it an excellent mushroom for beginners. However, its breathtaking beauty poses a minor moral dilemma: should one ruthlessly uproot it for the sake of a meal, or leave it for others to see?" [MushDemyst]

Cultivation "Hericium abietis, a lover of conifers, is more difficult to cultivate." [GGMM Stamets]


Hericium americanum

"Summary: Arora discusses nomenclatural intricacies in this genus, and the approach of Ginns(5) from 1993 is used here, in which H. ramosum as referred to by Arora is called H. coralloides (Scop.: Fr.) Pers. and H. coralloides, as the hardwood lover similar to H. abietis with pure white color when fresh, slightly longer spines up to 4cm, and slightly larger spores is called H. americanum Ginns. Ginns(22) in publishing the new name specifies the description as that of H. coralloides in Harrison(6), from which the description below is derived except where specified. Ginns(5) gives distribution as BC, WA, OR, ID, NS, ON, PE, PQ, AZ, CO, GA, IA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, NH, NY, PA, TN, VT, and WV." [E-flora]

"Spore Deposit: white (Miller)" [E-flora]

Similar Species: "Hericium americanum is North America's only Hericium species with long spines and a branched fruiting body. It is apparently 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; be sure you are examining mature, fully developed specimens before proclaiming your identification to God and country." [E-flora]

"Speaking of countries, if this mushroom were a country between Greece and Italy, and if international diplomats had recently named it, rather than mycologists, it might be called "FYROHC"--the Former Yugoslav Republic of Hericium coralloides. Like FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or the "artist formerly known as 'Prince,'" Hericium americanum has a former name that is more recognized and popular than its new name; it used to be "Hericium coralloides." Unlike FYROM or Prince, however, the folks in charge have gone and used the former name for something completely different: the short-spined, branched Hericium coralloides (which, in turn, was formerly known as "Hericium ramosum"). Whew! []

Habitat / Range
"found on wood of hardwoods and conifers, (Ginns(5)), on old logs, dead stubs, or cankers on living trees with heart rot, (Harrison), late summer and fall (Miller)" [E-flora]

Hericium coralloides sensu N. Amer. aucts. [E-flora]


Hericium coralloides - Comb Tooth

"Summary: Hericium coralloides consists of tufts of whitish teeth evenly distributed along branches arising from a repeatedly branching base, and sometimes in small tufts at branch tips, growing on hardwood. Arora discusses nomenclatural intricacies in this genus, and the approach of Ginns(5) from 1993 is used here, in which H. ramosum as referred to by Arora is called H. coralloides (Scop.: Fr.) Pers. and H. coralloides, as the hardwood lover similar to H. abietis with pure white color when fresh, slightly longer spines up to 4cm, and slightly larger spores is called H. americanum Ginns. There are collections from BC and AB at the University of British Columbia labeled Hericium ramosum, but some collections identified as H. coralloides from the west may be H. abietis." [E-flora]

"Spore Deposit: white (Arora, Hall)" [E-flora]

Similar Species: "Hericium coralloides is the most delicate of the three species that occur in our area. It has a loose, open branched structure, and relatively short spines which are arranged in rows except for the branch tips where they are tufted. Hericium erinaceus, more common than H. coralloides, also grows on hardwood logs, can be distinguished by an unbranched cushion-shaped base from which hang long, slender, white to cream-colored teeth. Hericum abietus has a fruiting body intermediate in structure between H. coralloides and H. erincaceus. It grows on conifer logs, sometimes forming impressive, large, white to cream-colored fruitings." [Mykoweb]

Habitat / Range "on hardwoods (Acer, Alnus, Betula, Carya, Fagus, Fraxinus, Populus, Quercus, Salix, Ulmus), reports on Picea need to be rechecked because they may be H. abietis, (Ginns), single or in small groups on fallen hardwood branches, logs, and stumps, (Arora), Hall records var. caput-ursi on rotting conifer wood (Hall)" [E-flora]

"Solitary or in small groups on hardwood logs; fruiting from after the start of the fall rains to mid-season." [Mykoweb]


Cultivaion "H. coralloides produce prodigiously in culture and are the best flavored." [GGMM Stamets]



Hericium erinaceus - Old Man's Beard

"Summary: Hericium erinaceus forms an unbranched mass of long, closely packed, parallel hanging white spines that discolor to yellowish or yellowish brown, growing on hardwoods. The dried and ground flesh is used as a styptic by some people according to Lincoff (1981). Note that the ending of "erinaceus" is masculine even though Hericium is neuter, because "erinaceus" is a noun, not an adjective. It is found in WA (Hall), CA (Arora), OR, AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN, MS, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA, and WV, (Ginns), There are collections from BC deposited at the Pacific Forestry Centre and the University of British Columbia. It also occurs in Europe and Russia (Siberia), (Coker)." [E-flora]

"Odor: slightly acid (Lincoff(1)), fungoid (Miller)" [E-flora]
"Taste: sweetish (Lincoff(1)), mild and pleasant (Miller)" [E-flora]
Spore Deposit: white (Arora)" [E-flora]

Similar Species: "Of the three Hericiums that occur in the S.F. Bay Area, H. erinaceus is the most recognizable, with a rounded, unbranched, fruiting body composed of pendant, long, slender, white to cream, teeth. Close relatives include Hericium abietis which has a compact, branching structure with shorter, clustered teeth, found on conifer logs, and Hericium ramosum, sparsely branched with short teeth that tend to be arranged in rows, also found on hardwoods." [Mykoweb]

"Habitat / Range single or rarely several together on wounds of living hardwoods or cut ends of recently felled hardwood logs, (Arora), grows from rotting wood of hardwoods, causing a heartwood rot, (Coker), late summer and fall (Miller)" [E-flora]

"Solitary from branch scars of living hardwoods or on fallen logs; fruiting from late fall to mid-winter." [Mykoweb]


Medicinal Uses

History "In Japan, the mushroom is known chiefly as Yamabushitake. Yamabushi, literally “those who sleep in the mountains,” are hermit monks of the Shugendo sect of ascetic Buddhism. Hericium erinaceus is supposed to resemble the suzukake, an ornamental garment that these monks wear. Take means “mushroom” in Japanese. In China, the mushroom goes by the name shishigashira, which means “lion’s head,” and Houtou, which means “baby monkey.” In some literature, Hericium erinaceus is mistakenly called Hericium erinaceum." [HealingMushrooms]

"Recently, Hericium erinaceus was blamed in northern California for an outbreak of heart rot in live oak trees." [HealingMushrooms]


Calories 375
Protein 20.46 (g/100g)
Fat 5.06 (g/100g)
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.83 (g/100g)
Total unsaturated fat 1.85 (g/100g)
Saturated fat 0.76 (g/100g)

Carbohydrates 61.8 (g/100g)
Complex carbohydrates 40.9 (g/100g)
Sugars 20.9 (g/100g)
Dietary fiber 39.2 (g/100g)
[NPCMM Stamets]

Mycochemicals "Active ingredients: Polysaccharides; fatty acids (Y-A-2); hericenons A and B, and hericenons C, D, E, F, G, and H. The mycelium also contains a group of diterpenes called erinacines that mimic the nerve growth factor; one erinacine is an opioid (useful for pain control)." [HealingMushrooms]

Pharmacology: "Styptic; immunostimulant; anti-cancer (stomach, esophagus, skin); anti-sarcoma; helps control Alzheimer’s disease; antioxidant; regulates glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol (mostly LDL) blood levels." [HealingMushrooms]

Studies "Western science opened the book on Hericium erinaceus a few short years ago. Although the mushroom has been part of the diet in Japan and China for many centuries and its medicinal properties as a styptic are well known, scientists have hardly begun to study it. However, the mushroom has turned a few heads for its unusual medicinal properties. In a recent article in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, Dr. Takashi Mizuno of Shizouka University, in Japan, noted the following about Hericium erinaceus:" [HealingMushrooms]

Environmental Remediation "Benz[a]anthracene is a widely distributed tetracyclic aromatic hydrocarbon but is a weaker carcinogen than benzo[a]pyrene. Limited information is available on the metabolism of benz[a]anthracene by microorganisms. Benzo[a]pyrene is a fused pentacyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and is one of the most potent carcinogens. Extracellular filtrate of Hericium erinaceus revealed the highest removal rate: 45% at 25oC in 17 days." [Fungalbioremediation]

Cultivation "Hericium erinaceusis one Of the few mushrooms imparting the flavor of lobster when cooked. Producing a mane of cascading white spines, this mushroom can be grown on sterilized sawdust/bran or via the traditional log method first established for Shiitake." [GGMM Stamets]
Natural Method of Outdoor Cultivation: "Inoculation of logs or stumps outdoors using sawdust or plug spawn a la the methods traditionally used for Shiitake. This is one of the few mushrooms which produces well on walnut logs. Oaks, beech, elm and similar hardwoods. (The "paper" barked hardwoods such as alder and birch are not recommended.) Once inoculated, the 3-4 foot long logs should be buried to 1/3 of their length in to the ground, in a naturally shady location. Walnut is comparatively slow to decompose due to its density, providing the outdoor cultivator with many years of fruitings. A heavy inoculation rate shortens the gestation period." [GGMM Stamets]
Substrates for Fruiting: "Hardwood and Douglas fir logs & stumps are recommended for outdoors." [GGMM Stamets]
Comments: "This mushroom grows quickly and is acclaimed by most mycophagists. From a marketing point of view, H. erinaceus has distinct advantages and few disadvantages. The snow-ball like forms are appealing. Picked individually and wrapped in rice paper or presented in a see-through container, this mushroom is best sold individually, regardless of weight. A major disadvantage is its high water content and white background which makes bruising quite apparent, although the mushroom may be, as a whole, in fine shape. Once the brown bruises occur, the damaged tissue becomes a site for bacterial blotch, quickly spreading to the other mature parts of the mushroom. In short, this mushroom must be handled ever so carefully by the harvesters. By reducing humidity several hours before harvest to the 60-70% range, the mushroom loses sufficient water and tends not to bruise so readily." [GGMM Stamets]


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