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Bear’s head tooth fungus striking in looks, tasty to eat

The distinctive bear’s head tooth fungus is often found on Pacific silver fir trees in the mountains.
The distinctive bear’s head tooth fungus is often found on Pacific silver fir trees in the mountains. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

If you are in the mountains this time of year, you might run across bear’s head tooth fungus (Hericium abietis.) The beautiful species decomposes conifer wood, causing a “white pocket rot.” The species is often one of the first found as rains return and temperatures moderate in late summer.

The fruiting bodies appear as a waterfall of tissue, often off the ends of logs, and are off-white and up to a foot or more across. They consist of random, thick branches, the tips of which are covered by downward-facing teeth, with the teeth in younger species shorter than in mature specimens.

In our area, it’s most commonly found on Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) at elevations of 3,000 to 4,000 feet. The species is edible, and considered good by many mycophagists (fungus eaters). Caution is advised, as always, if you are trying the species for the first time.

Details: Northwest Mushroomers Association, northwest mushroomers.org.

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