The irregularly stellate form of Scleroderma polyrhizum (J.F. Gmel.) Pers.
Lycoperdon polyrhizon J.F. Gmel.
Syst. Nat. 2: 1464 (1796)
Scleroderma geaster Fr.
Syst. mycol. (Lundae) 3(1): 46 (1829)
Dead man’s hand
Fruiting body: subglobose to globose, sometimes flattened or irregular; sporocarp 4-13 cm diameter; color initially whitish, then yellowish or browish; base sessile with rhizoid mass; sometimes buried or partially buried (hypogeous) before maturity.
Exoperidium: coffee color, up to 5 mm thickness, smooth or squamulose, often splitting open irregularly to form recurved fins in a stellate manner.
Gleba: when young, purple and firm with oval locules separated by white membranes; in older specimens black-brown and powdery.
Spore mass: dark brown.
Spores: subreticulate, globose, thick-walled, 6-10 µm diameter with spines up to 0.8 µm long.
Habitat: solitary to gregarious, on hard clay or sandy soil under hardwoods, along roads, in gravel or other poor soils.
Edibility: consumption not advised; Miller and Miller (2006) warn of gastric disturbance and type 8 toxins.
This mushroom is on the red list of threatened fungi in Japan.
Use in traditional medicine
Three nitrogen compounds have been isolated and purified from the fruit bodies of S. polyrhizum, determined to be N,N-dimethylphenylalanine, 2-N,N,N-trimethyl-phenylalanine, 2-trimethyl-ammonio-3–(3-indolyl)propionate (Gong et al., 2005).
Fruit bodies have also been shown to contain the steroids ergosta-4,6,8(14),22-tetraen-3-one and ergosterol peroxide (5α,8α-epidoxyergosta-6,22-dien-3β-ol) as well as the fatty acids palmitate and oleate (Gonzalez et al., 1983). Ergosterol peroxide is a known major anti-cancer and antiinflammatory sterol produced by a variety of medicinal mushrooms (see for example Takei et al., 2005 or Kobori et al., 2007).
Pictures of fruiting bodies and spores at Mushroomhobby
Key to the Sclerodermataceae in the Pacific Northwest
Kobori M, Yoshida M, Ohnishi-Kameyama M, Shinmoto H.
Ergosterol peroxide from an edible mushroom suppresses inflammatory responses in RAW264.7 macrophages and growth of HT29 colon adenocarcinoma cells.
Br. J. Pharmacol. 2007. 150:209-19.