Hericium erinaceus (Bull. : Fr.) Pers. 1797
Hydnum erinaceus Bull. : Fr. 1781 [1780-81]
Dryodon erinaceus (Bull.) P. Karst. 1882
Steccherinum quercinum Gray 1821
Lion’s mane, bearded tooth mushroom, satyr’s beard, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, bearded tooth fungus
Lion’s mane mushrooms are native to North America, Europe, and Asia. The cultivated ones shown here are courtesy of the Fat Moon Farm in Westford, Massachusetts.
Identification: There are several members of this species, all resembling each other, and looking like nothing else in the kingdom of fungi. They are white and gelatinous, and quite heavy, up to 4-8" (10-20 cm) at maturity. They are festooned with dangling spines, tiny stalagtites only a millimeter long in young specimens, and more than a centimeter in mature specimens. The spines are called rhizomorphs, which translates roughly to “rootlike thingers.” These form a single ball, looking like snowballs—or tribbles, if you happen to be a Star Trek fan. Other similar species form many small masses, looking more like a series of small, frozen waterfalls. They appear on living or recently dead hardwoods, often well up above the ground, especially in beech forests. Although white at first, the spines discolor to yellow, pinkish, or brown as the mushroom ages.
Edibility: These are delicious! Sliced into half-inch slabs and sautéed gently in oil, with some butter added as they begin to brown, they have a flavor and flaky texture reminiscent of crab legs or lobster. There are many recipes for them on the web.
Medicinal: Lion’s manes are widely consumed in parts of Asia, in part for a host of alleged nutritional and health benefits dating back to 2000 BCE. They are a subject of active research today. See, for example, the (paywalled) article Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds.
Hericium erinaceus on Michael Kuo's MushroomExpert.com
Hericium erinaceus on Mykoweb.com: the Fungi of California
Hericium erinaceus on Wikipedia
Hericium erinaceus on Shroomery: Magic Mushrooms Demystified
Hericium erinaceus on powo.science.kew.org
Hericium erinaceus on www.medicalmushrooms.net
Hericium erinaceus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.