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The Genus Hericium
by Michael Kuo
These wood-loving mushrooms are easily identified to genus by their drooping spines, which hang like little icicles. They have no caps; some of the species hang their spines from branched structures, while one species simply forms a large clump of spines.
Recent molecular biology studies have placed Hericium within the Russulales (it was previously variously disposed in the "Aphyllophorales"), in the family Hericiaceae (see Mushroom Taxonomy for the complete hierarchy). Obviously, there is no traditional morphological distinction one can make that would place Hericium erinaceus and Russula foetentula in the same order while another gilled mushroom--say, Pluteus cervinus--belongs in a different order. To confuse things further, the order Russulales also contains the polypore Bondarzewia berkeleyi and other morphologically diverse mushrooms. One might argue that the spores of Hericium species are often minutely roughened, a little like the spiny, ornamented spores in Russula or Lactarius. Maybe. But by this logic, Laccaria species would also belong in the Russulales; DNA studies, however, have placed Laccaria in the Agaricales.
I have not seen a DNA study of the individual species within Hericium; as far as I know it remains to be seen whether molecular biology will confirm or reject the division into the four North American species treated below. An extensive cultural study (petri dish "culture," not culture culture) of Hericium mating behavior upheld the four species; see Ginns, below.
Key to 4 Species of Hericium in North America
Ginns, J. (1985). Hericium in North America: cultural characteristics and mating behavior. Canadian Journal of Botany 63: 1551-1563.
Harrison, K. A. (1973). The genus Hericium in North America. Michigan Botanist 12: 177-194.
Cite this page as:
Kuo, M. (2004, November). The genus Hericium. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hericium.html