Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Flowerless Plants by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Flowerless Plants by  Anna Botsford Comstock

Hedgehog Fungi


There is something mysterious about all fungi, but perhaps none of these wonderful organisms so strangely impresses the observer as the fountainlike masses of creamy white or the branching white coral that we see growing on a dead tree trunk. The writer remembers as a child that the finding of these woodland treasures made her feel as if she were in the presence of the supernatural, as if she had discovered a fairy grotto or a kobold cave. The prosaic name of hedgehog fungi has been applied to these exquisite growths. Their life story is simple enough. The spores falling upon dead wood start threads which ramify within it and feed on its substance, until strong enough to send out a fruiting organ. This consists of a stem, dividing into ascending branches; from these branches, depending like the stalactites in a cave, are masses of drooping spines, the surface of each bearing the spores. And it is so natural for these spines to hang earthward that they are invariably so placed when the tree is in the position in which they grew. There is one species called the "satyr's beard," sometimes found on living trees, which is a mere bunch of downward-hanging spines; the corallike species is called Hydnum coraloides,  and the one that looks like an exquisite white frozen fountain, and may be seen in late summer or early autumn growing from dead limbs or branches, is the bear's head fungus; it is often eight inches across.


The bear's head fungus.

Photo by George F. Atkinson.


1. These fungi come from a stem which extends into the wood.

2. This stem divides into many branchlets.

3. From these branchlets there hang long fleshy fringes like miniature icicles.

4. These fringes always hang downward when the fungus is in natural position.

5. These fringes bear the spores.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Bracket Fungi  |  Next: The Scarlet Saucer
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.