Copyright Malcolm Storey, www.bioimages.org.uk
The pale Hedgehog Fungus, also known as the Wood Urchin, is a popular edible species, but it should be picked while young and free from worms and grubs. These quite large fungi grow in all kinds of damp woodland and can be found from late Summer to late Autumn. They are common in Europe, North America and Australia, and have been recorded in Japan and Korea.
This delicacy is easily recognized by its pale orange-tan colours, terrestrial habitat, and the spines or "teeth" on the undersides of their caps. These take the place of the gills in the more familiar types of mushrooms, and serve the same function, to produce and release large quantities of spores, which the fungus uses for reproduction. The teeth form dense masses, and can look more like bristles - a characteristic which has given rise to the common name of hedgehog fungus. The teeth or spines start small and grow to about 5-6 mm. long. Hydnum repandum is one of the safest edible mushrooms, since it is so unmistakable, although it is easily mistaken for a faded chanterelle until you get a peek at the spiny underside. Viewed from above they can look like ordinary gilled mushrooms, but the underside is very distinctive.