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The Complete Guide to the Hedgehog Mushroom
Identification

The Complete Guide to the Hedgehog Mushroom

Julian Selemin
Julian Selemin
July 20, 2023
8 min

The hedgehog mushroom earned its nickname due to its unique soft spines that grow on the underside of the cap. With a complicated taxonomical history, this fungus is one of the best choices for amateur and veteran mushroom lovers.

But not many people know that this species also has significant health benefits, including the ability to protect the body against certain bacteria. Plus, it has a fantastic nutritional balance. Let’s learn more about this eye-catching and tasty mushroom.

What is the hedgehog mushroom?

Hyndum repandum, popularly known as the hedgehog mushroom, is an edible species known for its unique look and delightful flavor. As its common name indicates, H. repandum is famous for featuring thousands of soft spines on the underside of the cap. The species also has a few other nicknames, including sweet tooth fungi and wood hedgehog.

H. repandum usually grows near hardwood or conifer trees (like cypresses, willows, and magnolias) during summer and fall. Previously, they were considered one of the most widespread species worldwide—yet recent research shows that H. repandum may only grow in Europe (1).

According to DNA-based definitions, sweet tooth mushrooms found in North America aren’t H. repandum but a similar species called “Hydnum washingtonianum.” Other similar species that get confused with H. repandum may include but are not limited to (2):

  • Hydnum subolympicum
  • Hydnum subtilior
  • Hydnum aerostatisporum
  • Hydnum umbilicatum
  • Hydnum albidum

The Hydnum genus (a biology classification that groups similar species) is enormous; so many species look like H. repandum. Luckily, most are edible and have similar health and culinary values.

It’s important to mention that H. repandum isn’t the only mushroom known as hedgehog fungus. The famous lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) is also known by the same nickname—although the two look wildly different.

H. repandum is sought-after due to its fantastic potential in the kitchen. Its tender, meaty texture pairs well with almost any ingredient, and its mild apricot-like flavor is sure to impress anyone. Plus, it’s unique because it tends to absorb liquids rather than yield them (3).

How does Hydnum repandum look?

Hedgehog mushrooms on the ground

As with most other Hydnum species, H. repandum has a unique look thanks to the spines on the underside of the cap. Measuring 2–17 cm (0.8–6.7 in), the cap surface is usually convex—later growing to be almost completely flat with a small depression in the middle. It’s typically dull orange, but some specimens may be paler.

The whitish spines are tiny, and each H. repandum specimen may show thousands of them if they grow big enough. The stem is rather long, often measuring 3–10 cm (1–4 in) and showing the same color as the cap. A key feature of the hedgehog mushroom is that the spines will bruise dark orange or yellowish brown whenever damaged. The spore print resembles the color of the cap (4).

If you’re familiar with chanterelles, this description may sound oddly familiar. The golden chanterelle mushroom has a very similar cap to H. repandum—the key difference is that the former doesn’t have spines.

What are the varieties of the hedgehog mushroom?

Although the hedgehog mushroom is one of the most common edible fungi, its taxonomy is surprisingly hard to follow—especially regarding varieties. Several varieties or strains are cataloged among the scientific communities, but many refer to other species in the Hydnum genus.

The difficulty lies in that many of these varieties look and taste almost the same as the “original” H. repandum. We’ve done our best to give you a few examples of the common varieties, but it’s hard to find what exactly sets them apart from each other (5):

  • Hydnum repandum var. albidum: Known as the white hedgehog, this variety looks almost the same as H. repandum but is white in color.
  • Hydnum repandum var. denudatum: This variety has a softer, almost completely smooth cap.
  • Hydnum repandum var. flavidum: This differs in that it’s pale yellow in color.
  • Hydnum repandum var. intermedium: Unlike the original H. repandum, this mushroom has a more uniform circular cap.

Still, remember that these varieties are almost identical to the original hedgehog mushroom. It’s very hard to find them labeled as such in supermarkets, and no evidence suggests that they have different medicinal or culinary values—so don’t be afraid to experiment!

History of Hydnum repandum

Hedgehog mushroom

While we don’t have evidence to suggest the use of H. repandum by ancient cultures, its taxonomical history is more than enough to leave even the most experienced mycologist dazed.

It all goes back to 1718, when German botanist Johann Jakob Dillenius first described the species. Originally, he placed it under the Erinaceus genus (not to be confused with the lion’s mane mushroom). Almost 40 years later, renowned Swedish mycologist Carolus Linnaeus moved it over to the Hydna genus in his pivotal work Species plantarum.

However, he later revised the species and once again moved it over to the Hydnum genus, placing it alongside other similar fungi. In 1821, Elias Magnus Fries further supported Linnaeus’ decision and stood by it in his publication Systema mycologicum—which cemented the name and genus as Hydnum repandum.

But that’s not all—if you’re already familiar with the hedgehog mushroom, you may’ve heard the name “Dentinum repandum.” It was proposed by famous mycologist Samuel Frederick Gray in 1821—the same year Fries proposed Hydnum repandum.

Yet, scientific circles agree on one simple but seemingly cruel rule: he who publishes first gets to name the species. And although both publications came out in the same year, for some reason Fries was given priority (6). 

But to be fair—Fries is kind of a rockstar among mycologists, so he probably deserves it.

Health benefits of the hedgehog mushroom

Close up shot of 2 mushrooms

Like most fungi we’ve covered, H. repandum is considered a “functional mushroom”—species that offer significant health and nutritional values. This makes it the perfect addition to almost any diet, and even more so if you’re trying to replace meat.

As for its nutrients, H. repandum comprises 53% carbohydrates, 27% protein, and 3% fat (the leftover 17% is mostly cellulose and ash). Furthermore, it contains several micronutrients, including (7):

  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron

But the most interesting aspect of hedgehog fungi is their medicinal benefits. A comprehensive 2021 study shows that H. repandum may have significant antioxidant, anticancer, antimicrobial, and antibiofilm properties.

The authors claim that these properties come from the famous “phenolic compounds,” which are responsible for several biological functions. Once these compounds were extracted, researchers found them effective in combating several microbes, such as S. aureus and P. aeruginosa.

The antibiofilm and antioxidant properties of H. repandum may also be useful for treating cell damage and hindering microbes. Similarly, experts claim that it may also be effective in protecting against cancer and cardiovascular disease (8).

However, it’s important to remember that research is still in its early stages. If you want to consume hedgehog mushrooms for their medicinal properties, check with a doctor or licensed nutritionist first.

Where does the hedgehog mushroom grow?

2 mushrooms on the ground

H. repandum is a mycorrhizal fungus—meaning it’s involved in a symbiotic relationship with the rootlets of trees. Usually, it grows near hardwoods and conifers, with a particular preference for spruces and beeches. Unlike many other wood-related fungi, the hedgehog mushroom grows on the ground and not on the tree itself.

There’s a lot of debate regarding the continents in which H. repandum may appear. Previously, mycologists were able to identify it in Europe, Asia, and North America. However, recent research indicates that the strict definition of H. repandum only applies to European specimens. Asian and North American ones, instead, are other closely-related species.

Keep in mind that most species in the Hyndum genus are very similar to H. repandum—so they’ll also be able to replace it. 

The European H. repandum grows during summer and fall, and is widely distributed among most of the continent’s countries. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about the artificial cultivation of H. repandum, so we can’t tell if it’s a good mushroom to grow at home (1).

What is ethical wildcrafting?

Ethical wildcrafting refers to a series of guidelines that allow you to harvest resources from the environment without damaging the local ecosystem. People often confuse wildcrafting with foraging—the key difference is that the former refers to harvesting for medicinal purposes and the latter for eating.

Ethical wildcrafting is essential to maintaining fungi and animal populations thriving in your area. If you’re a beginner harvester, don’t worry. We’ve done our best to compile the key rules of ethical wildcrafting:

  • Before heading out, research the species you want to harvest. Ideally, you should take note of any endangered or poisonous lookalike species you may encounter.
  • Always carry a field guide. These handy books will help you find the correct species and avoid toxic ones.
  • Take care of the mushroom patch by gently picking the mushrooms with your hand. If you find it hard to do so, you should carefully use a knife or scissors.
  • Try not to share patch locations with others, as it may lead to overharvesting.
  • Ask for permission from the property’s owner (if wildcrafting on private land).
  • Check local harvesting laws (if wildcrafting on public land).

If it’s your first time wildcrafting, we strongly recommend you look for local harvesting groups. Veteran mushroom lovers will gladly show you the ropes and help you stay away from dangerous practices.

Is it safe to wildcraft for Hydnum repandum?

No matter the species, it’s never 100% safe to eat wild mushrooms. There’s always the risk of coming across poisonous lookalikes, which could lead to gastric problems and severe side effects. Fortunately, most H. repandum lookalikes are edible—but we advise caution nonetheless.

Even if you’re completely sure you’ve picked the right mushroom, wild fungi often carry toxins from the environment. These can cause gastric discomfort—so if you’re set on eating wild H. repandum, make sure you wash and cook them thoroughly.

How do you take the hedgehog mushroom?

There isn’t a specific way to eat H. repandum. Its nutty flavor and tender texture pair well with almost any ingredient, making it a versatile choice for amateur and veteran cooks. If you’re new to cooking hedgehog mushrooms, don’t worry! Here are two easy recipes you could try out:

Hedgehog mushroom soup: Sauté onions and garlic in a large pot for about two minutes. Add the fungi and cook them for 10 minutes. Once everything is done, add a touch of flour, white wine, and vegetable stock progressively. After simmering for 10 minutes, season and serve.

Sautéed hedgehog mushrooms: Add butter and oil to a hot pan and wait until the butter melts. Chop the fungi and throw them into the pan, stirring frequently and letting them cook until they turn brown. Finally, add garlic (let it cook for one or two minutes), fresh thyme, and salt. Enjoy!

As with most other mushrooms we’ve covered, don’t be afraid to experiment with your own recipes. H. repandum is a forgiving mushroom that will work with most dishes—no matter how you cook it or which ingredients are alongside it.

Hedgehog mushroom: Spiky delights

H. repandum is a top pick among mushroom lovers due to its unique health benefits and culinary versatility. It’s possible to find it in the wild in most parts of the world—although the strict definition of the species only applies to European specimens. Still, those found in Asia and America have similar properties.

To learn more about other types of mushrooms, keep up on shroomer. Here, you’ll find all the details you need about psychedelic and functional fungi from all over the world, along with the latest news on medicinal research on edible mushrooms.

References

  1. Michael Kuo. “Hydnum repandum.” MushroomExpert.com (2020). http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hydnum_repandum.html
  2. Cathy Cripps, Vera Evenson, Michael Kuo. “Hydnum repandum Linnaeus” in The Essential Guide to Rocky Mountain Mushrooms by Habitat (2016), 183. 
  3. Michael Kuo. “Hedgehog mushrooms: Hydnum repandum and Hydnum umbilicatum” in 100 Edible Mushrooms (2007), 104–106.
  4. Michael Kuo, Andrew Methven. “Hydnum repandum” in Mushrooms of the Midwest (2014), 210.
  5. MycoBank. “Hydnum repandum.” (no date). https://www.mycobank.org/page/Name%20details%20page/73711
  6. Thomas Volk. “Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for October 2004.” TomVolkFungi.net (2004). Recovered from: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/oct2004.html
  7. Aysun Peksen, Beyhan Kibar, Gokcen Yakupoglu. “Favourable Culture Conditions for Mycelial Growth of Hydnum Repandum, a Medicinal Mushroom.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines 10(6) (2013): 431–434. https://doi.org/10.4314%2Fajtcam.v10i6.4
  8. Naznoosh Dizeci, Başar Karaca, Okan Onar, Arzu Coleri. “The Remarkable Antibiofilm Activity of the Sweet Tooth Mushroom Hydnum repandum (Agaricomycetes) Displaying Synergetic Interactions with Antibiotics.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 23(10) (2021): 45–60. http://dx.doi.org/10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2021040148

Fact Checked: Mar Yvette


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ShroomWiki
Julian Selemin

Julian Selemin

Content Writer

Table Of Contents

1
What is the hedgehog mushroom?
2
What are the varieties of the hedgehog mushroom?
3
History of Hydnum repandum
4
Health benefits of the hedgehog mushroom
5
Where does the hedgehog mushroom grow?
6
How do you take the hedgehog mushroom?
7
Hedgehog mushroom: Spiky delights

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