by Piter Kehoma Boll
Our species today is a beautiful fungus, Hydnellum peckii, the bleeding tooth fungus. It was described in 1913 by Howard J. Banker and named after the botanist C. H. Peck who collected it at North Elba, New York.
Being a mushroom, its visible part is composed by its fruit bodies which can grow up to a height of 10.5 cm. When moist, these fruit bodies exude a red juice, giving the mushroom its beautiful aspect and its common name. Found through most of North America, as well as in Eurasia, it grows from the soil and it’s usually associated with conifers of the family Pinaceae, like the genera Pinus, Picea, Tsuga, Pseudotsuga and Abies.
Even though it’s not poisonous, it has such a bitter taste that it turns out to be inedible. It wouldn’t be a good idea to eat it anyway, since it bioaccumulate the heavy element Cesium-137 in its mycelium.
H. peckii was revealed to have atromentin, an effective anticoagulant similar to the heparin which has also antibacterial activity against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, inhibiting an enzyme essential to their biosynthesis of fatty acids. Other uses of atromentin include an stimulant of smooth muscles and an inductor of apoptosis in leukemia U937 cells.
Not only beautiful, it is also very useful for medical and ecological purposes.
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Banker, H. J. 1913. Type Studies in the Hydnaceae: V. The Genus Hydnellum. Mycologia, 5 (4), 194-205 DOI: 10.2307/3753385
Shiryaev, A. 2008. Diversity and distribution of thelephoroid fungi (Basidiomycota, Thelephorales) in the Sverdlovsk region, Russia. Folia Cryptogamica Estonica, 44, 131-141
Vinichuk, M. M.; Johanson, K. J. & Taylor, A. F. S. 2004. 137Cs in the fungal compartment of Swedish forest soils Science of The Total Environment, 323, 243-251 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2003.10.009
Wikipedia. Hydnellum peckii. Available online at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydnellum_peckii>. Access on August 10, 2012.