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Vermont Declares Bear’s Head Tooth as Official State Mushroom
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Vermont Declares Bear’s Head Tooth as Official State Mushroom

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
May 29, 2024
2 min

In a move that has both delighted mycologists and nature enthusiasts, Vermont has named the bear’s head tooth mushroom (Hericium americanum) as its official state mushroom. This exciting decision was finalized in early May 2024, making Vermont the sixth state in the U.S. to recognize an official state fungus.

What makes the bear’s head tooth mushroom so special?

The bear’s head tooth mushroom is known for its unique appearance: white cascading spines that resemble pointy teeth, hence the name. It’s a prized local edible mushroom popular for its mild, seafood-like flavor and texture. If you’re familiar with the lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), you might notice the family resemblance. Both mushrooms belong to the Hericium genus; however, the bear’s head tooth has longer, more pronounced, and dramatic spines.

Yet beyond its striking appearance, the bear’s head tooth mushroom plays a significant role in Vermont’s forest ecosystems. As decomposers, fungi are key players in breaking down organic materials and recycling nutrients. The bear’s head tooth mushroom grows on hardwood trees, mainly beech and maple, and helps decompose dead wood, returning essential nutrients back into the system and supporting the overall health of the forest.

A community effort

The campaign, led by Westminster State Representative Michelle Bos-Lun, gained traction thanks to the enthusiastic participation of local students. Bos-Lun, a dedicated forager and former teacher, worked with students from Windham Elementary and Compass School to advocate for the mushroom’s designation. 

She explained to Vermont Edition that they created the bill “to help get people interested in mushrooms, which will get them in the woods, get them active, and get them caring about our world.”

Bos-Lu and her young supporters presented the bill before the House Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry Committee. The students, who had spent time studying Vermont’s native fungi, argued for the bear’s head tooth mushrooms, emphasizing its ecological importance and distinctive appearance. The bill was passed with widespread bipartisan support.

A mushroom for all

The successful campaign brought together students, educators, and legislators in a shared effort to highlight a unique and ecologically significant species.

“We found something we agreed about,” noted Bos-Lun, “and it’s a good start. And that will make it easier, I think, for us to work together in the future. The other I would just say is that a lot of people really do care about mushrooms.”

This designation goes beyond bringing attention to an ecologically important species—it encourages Vermonters to connect more deeply with their natural environment and highlights the importance of fungi in our ecosystems.


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legislation
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
What makes the bear’s head tooth mushroom so special?
2
A community effort
3
A mushroom for all

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