November 22, 2021
Good afternoon, friends,
This week’s mushroom is Climacodon septentrionalis, commonly known as northern tooth. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, I was going to revisit turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), and add greater depth, but I’m going to save that for a later date when I can write about turkey tail look-a-likes in the preceding weeks. C. septentrionalis is another white toothed mushroom that keeps with the theme from the past couple weeks. A few different people told me about this mushroom growing gregariously on the largest London planetree (platanus x hispanica) in the park, but I believe the first person to alert me was Alex. If you haven’t seen this tree (picture 6) it’s worth visiting and hugging in real life. It’s on the northeastern side of the reservoir between the bridle path and the reservoir track. I think it would take more than five people to stretch the circumference of the tree with their arms and if you’re willing to volunteer yourself for this advancement of science please let me know.
Like last week’s marshmallow polypore (I. pachyodon), C. septentrionalis consumes the heartwood of living trees, specifically hardwoods. It grows summer through fall in northeastern North America. A spore will enter the tree through an injury, in this case a cut limb, and the mushrooms will typically grow from this injury too. The mushroom releases its spores through teeth on the bottom of the mushroom, and the idea behind the teeth is that it gives the mushroom’s fertile surface a greater surface area to release these spores. The teeth are white but can discolor with age, and this specimen even has a mold – another type of fungus – growing on the teeth toward the margin of the cap. That causes that stark discoloration you see in the first two pictures. The caps of the mushroom can grow to greater than a foot in width and the stacked cluster of caps can stretch to over three feet long.
Apparently, Central Park is the only locale where there is evidence of C. septentrionalis growing on London planetrees, since they usually prefer maple, beech, or ash. There isn’t too much else super notable about this mushroom – it has compounds with antioxidant properties, but there hasn’t been much research conducted on these compounds and it is not used medicinally. However, renowned mycologist Tom Volk has a fun story about this mushroom in the fifth reference if you’re yearning for more Climacodon. He used to do a fungus of the month with ~150 entries and a lot of other neat resources on his site. Worth the scroll.
I went on a bit of a Wikipedia deep dive into the Latin “septentrionalis”. I thought there was going to be some significance with this mushroom and the number seven because I remember a bit of the math I was taught throughout my youth and the prefix “sept” means seven. Well, “septentrional” is a word – an adjective – in the Merriam Webster dictionary and means “northern”. Northern tooth, simple enough right? Not quite. Septentrional is derived from the Latin “septentriones” and correlates to the seventh, northern most, star in the big dipper. The big dipper, part of the constellation Ursa major, is seen in the northern sky and that’s how the prefix “sept” refers to both “northern” and “seven”. The more you know.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving – I hope there is plenty of tofurkey for you and yours,
1. Kuo, M. (2010, May). Climacodon septentrionalis. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/climacodon_septentrionalis.html
2. Climacodon septentrionalis (messiah.edu)
3. Climacodon septentrionalis – Bonito Lab (msu.edu)
4. Climacodon septentrionalis: Northern Tooth Fungus Identification & Info (healing-mushrooms.net)
5. Climacodon septentrionale, the northern tooth fungus, Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for February 2001, Climacodon septentrionale the northern tooth fungus (wisc.edu)
6. Septentrional – Wikipedia