Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Hydnellum spongiosipes – velvet tooth


Hydnellum spongiosipes (Peck) Pouzar
Family: Bankeraceae

This is a mycorrhizal species associated with broadleaf trees. It is one of the “tooth” fungi so called as they produce spores on spines on the underside of the cap instead of gills.

In brief

  • Only one modern record from the Donard Park in Newcastle

  • Found under sweet chestnut but in Great Britain also known associated with oak, birch and beech

  • Found in the British Isles between August and November with the Northern Ireland record from mid-September

  • It is a UK Priority Species

  • The main threats to this species are the loss of the trees with which it forms a partnership and poor woodland management.

Species description
There are a number of different genera of tooth fungi. Hydnellum species are marked by a tough or corky fruiting body and dark to brown spines and spore print. H. spongiosipes is further identified by a lumpy, domed cap that is up to 10cm in width. This cap has a velvet to pinkish-buff colour when fresh but darkens with age. The spines can also have a velvet colour when young and also darken with age. It can form fruiting bodies that are fused together at the base. It is always important to slice a tooth fungus in two to see the colours of the flesh. This species has a dark reddish-brown colour that can darken towards the base of the stem.

Life cycle
It was recorded in mid September in Northern Ireland, although in Great Britain it has been recorded from August to November.

Similar species
The corky, tough flesh distinguishes it from tooth fungi in the genera Hydnum, Sarcodon or Bankera and the dark spines and spore print from Phellodon. Other species of Hydnellum have caps that are darker in colour and usually have concentric zones or marked radial ridges extending from the centre of the cap to the edge. H. spongiosipes has neither and the closest species is H. ferrugineum, but this occurs with pine. Old species of tooth fungi are notoriously difficult to identify and it is not worth trying to do so.

How to see this species
This single modern record in Ireland is from Donard Park in Newcastle in September 2002. It was found under sweet chestnut by Donard Bridge. Here the soil is mossy and there is no ground flora due to the heavily used adjacent path. In Great Britain, it is typically found on mossy banks and ditches, so similar habitats are potential sites for this species. Relevant access permissions should always be sought prior to visiting any sites.

Current status
Very rare in Ireland as a whole with only one modern record from Donard Park in Newcastle.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?

  • Listed as a UK Priority Species

  • Rare – Irish population occurring at a single site in Northern Ireland.

Threats/Causes of decline
As this species is known from under sweet chestnut at its only Irish location, removal of that tree for any reason (including conservation management wishing to remove a non-native species) would be severely detrimental to this species. Local site managers should be very aware of this. At this site, soil compaction due to trampling by people is a threat as it is a very popular path. Surrounding cherry laurel clearance could be beneficial to species spread. At other potential sites, removal of appropriate tree cover, soil eutrophication due to air pollution, soil compaction due to people or stock pressure or a thick understorey of rhododendron, cherry laurel, bramble, ivy or woodrush are all the main threats.

Conservation of this species

Current action
There is a UK Species Action Plan for tooth fungi published in 1995.

  • Implementation of the Northern Ireland Habitat Action Plans for Oakwoods, Mixed Ashwoods and Parkland.

Proposed objectives/actions

  • Implementation of the Northern Ireland Habitat Action Plans for Oakwoods, Mixed Ashwoods and Parkland.

What you can do
Some species of fungi can be difficult to identify, but if you are interested, please contact the Northern Ireland Fungus Group for details of how to record fungi. Records can be sent in using online recording forms or by contacting

Further information

Northern Ireland Fungus Group

British Mycological Society

UK Biodiversity Action Plan

Northern Ireland Habitat Action Plans

Pegler, D., Roberts, P. & Spooner, B.M. (1997). British Chanterelles and Tooth Fungi. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Ainsworth, M. (2004). BAP Fungi Handbook. English Nature Research Reports No. 600

Ewald, N. (2001). Survey of the New Forest for Stipitate Hydnoid Fungi. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Marren, P. (2000). Stipitate Hydnoid fungi in England. English Nature Research Series No. 420.

Text written by:
David Mitchel

iNaturalist: Species account : iNaturalist World Species Observations database