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Is the bleeding tooth fungus rare?

Is the bleeding tooth fungus rare?

The bleeding tooth fungus, scientifically known as Hydnellum peckii, is a fascinating and unusual fungus that grows in North America and Europe. It gets its name from its startling blood-like appearance when it oozes bright red droplets. But is this strange fungus actually rare? Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics, habitat, distribution, conservation status, and uniqueness of the bleeding tooth fungus to determine just how uncommon it really is.

Characteristics of the Bleeding Tooth Fungus

The bleeding tooth fungus is a member of the genus Hydnellum, which contains mostly inedible mushrooms that form symbiotic relationships with tree roots. It has the following distinguishing features:

– Formation of fungal fruiting bodies that look like cones, shelves, or spines emerging from the ground. They can reach 3-12 cm wide and 3-7 cm tall.

– A cap that is pinkish-orange to reddish-brown in color, rough and bumpy in texture. The underside contains tiny pores instead of gills.

– Bleeding a watery red fluid when young that can look like blood, giving it the common name “bleeding tooth fungus.” This liquid contains a red pigment called atromentic acid.

– A bitter taste and an odor reminiscent of radishes.

– Mycorrhizal relationship with conifers like pine, spruce, and fir trees. The fungi help absorb water and nutrients to share with the tree.

– Inedible to humans due to its extremely bitter taste. If eaten, the red juice can cause stains and vomiting.

Habitat and Distribution

The bleeding tooth fungus occupies a specific forest habitat and has a limited natural distribution:

– Grows on the ground in coniferous forests dominated by pine, spruce, Douglas fir, and true firs.

– Mainly found in North America across the Pacific Northwest and Appalachian regions. Also present in parts of Europe.

– Occurs where soil pH is acidic and plenty of coarse woody debris is available on the forest floor.

– Fruiting bodies emerge singly or clustered together from August to November.

– Can be found along the coast, at low to moderate elevations, and in old-growth inland rainforests.

Conservation Status

The bleeding tooth fungus has been assessed for its rarity and risk of extinction:

Organization Status
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Not Evaluated
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Not Listed

– Has no designation on the IUCN Red List – its conservation status globally is unknown.

– Is not listed in CITES Appendices, indicating it is not threatened by international trade.

– Considered common within its limited range by some organizations, like the Oregon Natural Heritage Program.

– Habitat loss from logging and urbanization is a threat, but the overall population trend is unknown.

Uniqueness of the Fungus

The bleeding tooth fungus has several traits that make it a one-of-a-kind species:

– One of only a few fungi worldwide that “bleeds” fluid. This feature is very rare and visually striking.

– The only known fungus that bleeds a bright blood-red fluid containing atromentic acid.

– Unique microscopic spore ornamentation – inner spore wall has irregular maze-like ridges.

– Unusual ability to ooze liquid even when physically damaged or dried out. Exact mechanism unknown.

– Grows in symbiosis with conifer trees, helping the forests by providing access to nutrients and water.

– Has an unusual growth pattern, fruiting during late summer and fall rather than spring like many other fungi.

Is the Bleeding Tooth Fungus Rare?

In summary, while the bleeding tooth fungus has a small natural range limited to conifer forests of North America and Europe, it is abundant and common within that narrow range. It has unique visible characteristics and a specialized ecological niche. However, its global population trend is unknown and it has not been assessed for extinction risk. Therefore, while this bizarre and captivating fungus is unusual, it cannot yet be considered extremely rare or endangered. More research is needed on its full distribution and threats to its limited habitat. But for now, you can be confident of finding this crimson fungus bleeding in the autumn forests if you wander the right pine woods of the Pacific Northwest!


The bleeding tooth fungus stands out for its blood-red fluid, unusual appearance, habitat preferences, and pine forest symbiosis. However, despite its uniqueness and small geographic range, the fungus has not been evaluated as globally threatened. Much remains unknown about its conservation status and population trends across North America and Europe. While unusual, the bleeding tooth fungus appears relatively common in appropriate conifer forest habitats. More work is needed to fully assess its rarity across the entirety of its range. But for now, this captivating fungus remains an intriguing and eye-catching denizen of pine and spruce forests rather than an extremely rare species on the brink of extinction.