For those of us who tend to our gardens on a regular basis, finding the odd bit of fungi isn’t that unusual. But this particular organism, as you can see, isn’t that easy on the eye, earning the nickname “the bleeding tooth fungus.” And while it wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie, it actually has some rather interesting uses.
Normally, you’d find the bleeding tooth fungus in countries like Scotland, America, Germany and Italy. Yet that’s not all, as we’re about to discover. For you see, in the last few years it’s emerged in parts of Korea and Iran as well, so it clearly isn’t localized to a particular region.
If you just so happen to come across the fungus, you’ll quickly realize why it’s referred to by its current nickname. The mushroom has pale white flesh, but thanks to the pores in its skin, a red liquid often seeps out. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that substance was blood.
Furthermore, the fungus has numerous “spines” on its base too. If you take a closer look at them, you’ll notice that they resemble tiny teeth. It’s an unsettling sight, rounding off the mushroom’s creepy appearance. However, as we suggested earlier, the bleeding tooth fungus is surprisingly useful in certain situations.
Ahead of all that, though, here’s something else to consider. While the bleeding tooth fungus is certainly a strange-looking mushroom, there are other bizarre species out there today as well. Some of that fungi is just as odd, so let’s take a peek at a few of them right now.
To kick things off, let’s start with the “humongous fungus.” Otherwise referred to as Armillaria ostoyae, this type of fungi is incredibly unique for one particular reason. Indeed, most of it can’t be seen, as it lives below the soil. But it does sprout mushrooms above ground that display a brownish shade.
Keeping that in mind, you’re probably wondering why it’s called the humongous fungus. Well, it’s believed that the life form has reached around four miles in size below an Oregon forest, dwarfing some of the planet’s biggest animals. Unfortunately, that’s bad news for the trees, as the fungi is known to attack their roots.
Meanwhile, these next organisms are a lot easier to spot than the humongous fungus. Mycena chlorophos mushrooms thrive in the woodland areas of warm countries such as Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Japan and Brazil. The fungi itself is “bioluminescent,” meaning that it gives off a spooky glow in the darkness.
But before the sun goes down, the mushrooms can be identified thanks to their light brown bodies. When nightfall comes, they begin to give off a bright green radiance. And experts believed that they’d uncovered the secret behind this back in 2015, sharing their findings in the Angewandte Chemie science journal.
According to the experts, they found a certain type of antioxidant within the bioluminescent fungus. This compound, “hispidin,” has been credited for causing the glow when it reacts to the mushroom’s other chemicals. On that note, you could argue that Mycena chlorophos is one of the most recognizable species out there today.
However, while bioluminescent mushrooms light up the darkness, the following fungus is very different. Exidia glandulosa is a pitch-black organism that thrives on decomposing pieces of wood throughout Europe. Given its appearance, the fungi is also called “black witches’ butter,” as it resembles a gloopy spread on the festering bark.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Exidia glandulosa was a toxic fungus. That’s not the case, though, as people have been known to eat the growths at home. Incredibly, you can consume black witches’ butter in a number of ways, thanks to its ability to soak up the juices from other food items.
Indeed, you can throw black witches’ butter into soup dishes or colder meals, leading to tasty results. To add to that, other organisms from its family are said to contain properties that will improve cholesterol and blood pressure readings. So Exidia glandulosa could actually be beneficial for your health going forward.
Speaking of tasty mushrooms, that brings us onto the next weird-looking organism. This fungi is called Laetiporus sulphureus, but you might know it by a different name. Indeed, it’s also referred to as “chicken of the woods.” For you see, these yellow growths have a similar flavor to the aforementioned meat.
In fact, if you wanted to make some alterations to your diet, Laetiporus sulphureus could be a realistic replacement for chicken. You’d just have to ensure that the fungus is cooked correctly. Due to its appearance, though, these mushrooms are sometimes confused with another organism, as we’re about to find out.
The fungi in question is called Laetiporus huroniensis, and it’s a mirror-image of chicken of the woods. But should you consume the former, you’ll become very sick. So the easiest way to differentiate these unique mushrooms is by looking at their base. If they’re residing on conifer trees, they’re the ones to avoid.
Moving on from that, the growth here could give the bleeding tooth fungus a run for its money as the scariest mushroom in the wild. It’s known as Clathrus archeri, or the “devil’s fingers.” In the past, this terrifying fungi would only be found in countries like New Zealand and Australia.
But the fungal growth hit the headlines in the United Kingdom back in November 2019, after some people found it outside Bristol. “I didn’t know what it was when I first saw it,” Charlotte Targett told the BBC News website. “It looked like some sort of strange sea creature.”
After the devil’s fingers were uncovered, a worker from the Plantlife organization spoke to the BBC about its weird appearance. And Dave Lamacraft explained why the fungus sprouts those eerie red arms, as well as the purpose they serve. Yet his words on the matter didn’t conclude there.
Lamacraft said, “[The fungus] erupts from a partially buried ‘egg’ by pushing its red octopus-like arms through the egg, which then unfold revealing their sticky and smelly insides. Related to the stinkhorns, it smells of rotting flesh, which attract insects to the sticky substance on the octopus arms where the spores are found. The spores are then spread by the visiting insects.”
On that note, let’s redirect our focus back to the bleeding tooth fungus. Its official name is Hydnellum peckii, and it grows in woodland environments across various countries. As we discussed earlier, the mushroom wouldn’t look out of place in a scary movie, but its startling appearance is actually quite deceptive.
For you see, the mushroom isn’t hemorrhaging blood through its pores. In fact, that substance is said to be a kind of “sap.” It appears on the flesh after the fungus absorbs water through its base. To expel the aforementioned fluid, the organism essentially pushes it up to its exterior, giving off the bleeding effect.
Furthermore, the bleeding tooth fungus is actually beneficial for trees, unlike certain fungi out there. Indeed, the colorful mushrooms form a “symbiotic relationship” with the saplings, as they both help each other in the wild. The former receives welcome doses of carbon dioxide from the tree that it’s attached to.
As for the tree, it subsequently has access to minerals and other chemical compounds that it couldn’t utilize previously. It’s a partnership that highlights the fascinating inner-workings of nature. However, the bleeding tooth fungus is no longer as widespread as it once was, and the reasons behind that are fairly troubling.
To explain more, the Earth Titan YouTube channel discussed the issue in a video about the mushrooms. The host says, “Other European countries like the Czech Republic, Norway and the Netherlands once had healthy populations of the fungus. [But] it’s believed that pollution is the reason they’re so hard to find in these countries today.”
You see, nitrogen is said to be the biggest factor behind the fungi’s demise in certain locations. Yet for those of us who still have access to the mushrooms, we could be in for some surprising benefits, much like the trees. As it turns out, they harbor properties that might aid our health going forward.
Yes, the bleeding tooth fungus houses a chemical called atromentin, which might sound familiar to some of you with a background in science. That particular substance is an anticoagulant, also known as a blood thinner. As the name suggests, these properties help prevent blood clots from developing in the human body.
And if that wasn’t enough, atromentin is considered to be an antibacterial agent as well. According to the website Science NetLinks, the substance could be used to treat patients with bacterial pneumonia in the hospital. Incredibly, though, the fungi’s potential health benefits don’t end there, as we’re about to find out.
Alongside the atromentin, the bleeding tooth fungus produces another substance called thelephoric acid. And this chemical has fascinated scientists in recent times, as it might play an important role in the treatment of a major condition that’s affected millions. The ailment in question is Alzheimer’s disease, which currently has no cure.
But outside of the medical aspects, the bleeding tooth fungus could be helpful in a different way too. The organism has the potential to be utilized as a form of clothing dye, following in the footsteps of some other mushrooms in the past. The practice itself has been going on for hundreds of years.
Indeed, people have been dyeing their clothes with fungus since the 1400s, so it’s not a new idea. Yet despite its long history, a woman named Miriam Rice shone a light on the concept again in the 1970s. And she went on to write three books on the subject over the next three decades.
The process is fairly intricate, as you need to go through a number of steps to pull it off correctly. To begin with, you must ensure that the fungus is free from moisture before proceeding. If you dry them out, they’ll produce stronger colors and cover more of the material that you’re working with.
Speaking of the material, it’s said that wool reacts better to the fungi dye than other fabrics out there today. But part of that is down to an additional step in the process. To help the colors stick, you need to get hold of some “mordant” substances, such as iron and alum.
Once everything’s in place, you can then start to dye your clothes with the aforementioned tools. The North American Mycological Association website revealed that iron can produce dimmer colors when mixed with certain mushrooms. As for alum, that substance will help bring out brighter shades in the fabric after you’re finished.
Going back to the bleeding tooth fungus, you might assume that it’d turn clothes red due to its sap. Surprisingly, though, this particular mushroom could produce colors like green and blue when it’s mixed with the mordant chemicals. This once again showcases the versatility and usefulness of the strange-looking fungi.
Meanwhile, the bleeding tooth fungus’ appearance changes as it gets older, by which time it loses its unique look. One online user saw that firsthand, as they responded to a National Geographic article on the subject. Indeed, the individual wrote up a message in the comments section of the website.
The user recalled, “I found [some bleeding tooth fungus] next to my car. We live out in the country. About three hours after taking a picture [of it], I returned and the red spores were gone. What was left was a hard grey shell. My husband knocked it over and it was very hard.”
To expand on that, the Earth Titan YouTube video spoke about the transformation in a bit more detail. The host explains, “Over time, this mushroom will change from a white color with the red juice orbs, to brown with dark patches. [It goes] back to a more normal-looking mushroom appearance.”
From here, the YouTuber goes on to add, “When mature, the surface [of the bleeding tooth fungus] becomes tough, scaly, jagged and fibrous. [It features] flesh that is marked with concentric lines that form alternating pale and darker zones. [It also has] a sweetish odor that is similar to hickory nuts.”
By hearing that final point, you might be wondering if the bleeding tooth fungus is edible. As it turns out, the mushrooms won’t poison you, but their flavor leaves a lot to be desired. Unlike the chicken of the woods and the black witches’ butter, it’s said to be quite bitter.