Scientific name: Climacodon septentrionalis (Fr.)
Derivation of name: Septentrional- means "northern."
Synonyms: Steccherinum septentrionale (Fr.) Banker;
Hydnum septentrionale Fr.
Common name(s): Northern tooth.
Occurrence on wood substrate: Parasitic; in dense
overlapping clusters on trunks of living deciduous trees,
particularly maple (Acer) and beech (Fagus); July through
Dimensions: Individual caps up to 30 cm wide and from
2.5-5 cm thick at the base. Overlapping clusters of shelving
caps may be up to 80 cm high.
Description: Upper cap surfaces are whitish to creamy
yellow when young and become yellow-brown in age. Cap
surfaces are hairy to rough. Odor and taste when young are
not distinctive but the odor of old specimens is described as
like old, spoiled ham and the taste becomes bitter. The
crowded, whitish spines on the underside of the caps are 0.5-
2 cm long and have lacerated or ragged tips. Like the cap
surfaces, the spines become yellowish in age.
Comments: This fungus looks like a polypore until the
are noticed. It causes a heart rot of trees in urban
parks, and in forests.
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Figure 1. Climacodon septentrionalis on a living oak tree at
Laurel Hill State Park in PA.
Photo © Ellen Shenk.
Figure 2. Specimen of Climacodon septentrionalis
growing on red maple (Acer rubrum) at Longwood
Gardens in Pennsylvania. Photo ©
Figure 3. Climacodon septentrionalis looks like a
polypore until you note there are teeth under the caps
instead of pores. This specimen was flipped over to
teeth which are about 1 cm in length.
Figure 4. Tips of the teeth (spines). Photo © Gary Emberger.
Figure 5. Spines are clearly seen on this young specimen.
Photo © William Roody.
Figure 6. Older specimen of northern tooth with
yellow-brown discoloration. Photo © Fred Habegger.
Climacodon septentrionalis associated with a crack on
a maple (a different tree than the one in Figure 2) at Longwood
The overlapping caps progressively
decrease in size
toward the top and bottom of the
cluster. Photo © Don Davis.
This is the same tree as pictured in Figure 7. The fruit
either fell off or was knocked off or removed in some manner
fungus is re-emerging from the crack in the trunk.
Photo © Don Davis.
Figure 9. This photo was taken 1 month after the image in Figure 8.
The re-emerged fungus fruit body is even larger than the original
structure in Figure 7. Photo © Don Davis.
Figure 10. Northern tooth is often reported
high up on wounds of infected trees but this
low-to-the-ground specimen on a living Norway
maple (Acer platanoides) shows there are
often exceptions. Photo © Lynne Jones.