The zoned tooth fungus belongs to the stipitate hydnoid fungi group, also known as the 'tooth fungi'. Members of this group share some morphological characters, but are not a naturally related group (1)(7). They are known as tooth fungi since they release their spores from tooth-like structures. The fruit bodies (the visible part of the fungus) are terrestrial and have a short stalk or 'stipe', hence the name 'stipitate' (1). The teeth are on the underside of the fruit body (1). The flesh of Hydnellum concrescens is leathery, becoming corky when it dries. The cap often has an irregular shape (1), and usually displays obvious growth zones, which form layers (4). Caps may fuse into one mass with a number of stalks, and can surround twigs, leaves or blades of grass (4).
WARNING: many species of fungus are poisonous or contain chemicals that can cause sickness. Never pick and eat any species of fungus that you cannot positively recognise or are unsure about. Some species are deadly poisonous and can cause death within a few hours if swallowed.
Fungi are neither plants nor animals but belong to their own kingdom. They are unable to produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis, as plants do; instead, they acquire nutrients from living or dead plants, animals, or other fungi, as animals do. In many larger fungi (lichens excepted) the only visible parts are the fruit bodies, which arise from a largely unseen network of threads called 'hyphae'. These hyphae permeate the fungus's food source, which may be soil, leaf litter, rotten wood, dung, and so on, depending on the species. With the exception of the earpick fungus Auriscalpium vulgare, all stipitate hydnoid fungi are ectomycorrhizal species; they form close symbiotic relationships with trees, and derive some of their nutrients from the tree's roots. This aids them in obtaining nutrients on poor quality soil, and means that they are always found in association with trees (1).
The best time to look for the fruit bodies of H. concrescens is September. Interestingly, all Hydnellum species are very rarely damaged by invertebrates, and it is thought that they may contain certain chemicals that prevent them from being eaten (1).
A widespread but local species throughout the northern hemisphere, H. concrescens has been recorded from 25 vice-counties of England, 14 of these records being made after 1960 (1). It mainly occurs in southern England, is relatively widespread in the New Forest, and is also found in the Thames Valley (1). It has been recorded from 3-4 sites in Wales (9) and is also known from Scotland and Ireland (8).
Found in broadleaved woodlands, commons, and parks in association with oak, sweet chestnut, pine, larch and birch (1). It can be found on raised banks, stream banks, managed chestnut coppice and the sides of trackways (1), and shows a preference for open vegetation (6).
Comparison of pre-1960 and post-1960 records of H. concrescens seems to indicate that the range of this species in the UK has decreased somewhat; however older records are often very unreliable (1). All species of stipitate hydnoid fungi are vulnerable to the effects of atmospheric pollution (1), soil eutrophication, soil disturbance (e.g. by timber management) and competition from vascular plants (1).
Much more research on these fungi is needed if they are to be conserved (1). The UK Biodiversity Action Plan has produced a group action plan for 14 UK species of stipitate hynoid fungi (2),(8). Management measures likely to help these species include the preservation of banks within woodlands (1). Many sites supporting this species, including the New Forest, are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or reserves (2). The zoned tooth fungus is afforded general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but it is not one of the four species of non-lichenized fungi given special protection under Schedule 8 (2).
Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management in which trees are cut close to the base of the trunk. Re-growth occurs in the form of many thin poles. Coppiced woodlands are cut in this way on rotation, producing a mosaic of different stages of re-growth.
An association between a fungus and plant roots, from which both species benefit. The fungal threads form a sheath around the root. The plant benefits as root uptake is increased as a result, and the fungus receives nutrients from the plant roots.
Nutrient enrichment of aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems.
In fungi, the fruit body is the visible part of the fungus which bears spores (microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction).
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
Microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction. They comprise a single or group of unspecialised cells and do not contain an embryo, as do seeds.
Relationship in which two organisms form a close association, the term is now usually used only for associations that benefit both organisms (a mutualism).
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