Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes (insertae sedis) - Order: Cantharellales - Family: Hydnaceae
These large and fleshy fungi grow in all kinds of damp woodland. In France this prized esculent goes by the charming name of Pied de Mouton. Further evidence of the reputation of these 'tooth fungi' is hidden in the generic name Hydnum, which is derived from the Greek name for a truffle.
Common in Britain and Ireland, Hydnum repandum occurs throughout mainland Europe and is also recorded from many parts of North America.
Both the Wood Hedgehog and its close relative the Terracotta Hedgehog Hydnum rufescens tend to be gregarious, forming small clumps and occasionally fairy circles. The picture below shows Wood Hedgehogs in mixed woodland, where they have produced an almost complete fairy ring about four metres across.
In 1753 when Carl Linnaeus described this woodland mushroom he gave it the binomial scientific name Hydnum repandum, which was subsequently sanctioned (retained rather than being changed) by Elias Magnus Fries and remains its currently accepted scientific name.
Hydnum, the genus name, comes from the Greek noun udnon or hudnon, a truffle. The specific epithet repandum is Latin and means bent back or turned up, and often part of edge of the cap of a Wood Hedgehog mushroom is indeed upturned.
The cap is creamy white, with irregular undulations and pits on its upper surface, which has a fine velvety feel and tends to redden slightly when handled. The firm, crunchy flesh of this large edible fungus is slightly spicy and not dissimilar to that of the Chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius.
Caps of the Wood Hedgehog are irregularly shaped and typically 4 to 15cm across.
Hanging down like stalactites, soft spines cover the fertile surface of the Wood Hedgehog. The spines are 2 to 6mm long and decurrent to the stem.
White; cylindrical, 5 to 10cm tall and typically 1.5 to 3cm in diameter; solid, with white flesh.
Ellipsoidal, smooth, 6.5-9 x 5.5-7μm.
Odour not distinctive; turns bitter in the mouth after a few moments delay.
Ectomycorrhizal; forming rings among the moss and leaf litter of forest floors.
August to December in Britain and Ireland.
Hydnum rufescens is smaller and tan coloured; its spines are adnate to (or occasionally free of) the stem rather than decurrent.
Hydnum repandum is a popular edible species, but it should be picked while young and free from worms and grubs. The Wood Hedgehog is delicious in all sorts of dishes from soups and risottos to our own favourite invention which we call 'Hedgehogs on Toast'.
Fascinated by Fungi, 2nd Edition, Pat O'Reilly 2016, reprinted by Coch-y-bonddu Books in 2022.
British Mycological Society English Names for Fungi
Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008
Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi.
This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.
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