One day as you check your mailbox you notice a yellow smear on the entrance to your house (for example a wooden gate). After retrieving your mail, you take a closer look and see that it’s a yellow gelatinous lobed blob – Witch’s Butter! Oh no, you think, I’ve been hexed by a witch! Knowing just what to do, you run back to the house, collect a few straight pins, and stab them through the offending substance to drain its juices and kill the spell. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work very well for two reasons. First, this blob is actually the jelly fungus Tremella mesenterica. Like all jelly fungi, it is specifically designed to survive repeated dehydration and rehydration. Second, the main body of the fungus is still living inside the wood; unless you replace the wood, the mushroom will probably reappear in the same place!
mushrooms with a jelly fungus morphology
This distinctive, ear-shaped mushroom is brown in color and gelatinous in texture. Auricularia auricula-judae is a common find in North America and Europe and has a close relative in Asia. As a result, the fungus has accumulated a variety of common names. The two most commonly used names in English are “Jelly Ear,” “Wood Ear,” and “Tree Ear.” Other popular names for this mushroom include “Judas’ Ear” or “Jew’s Ear.” In most European countries, the regional common name translates to “Judas’” Indeed, the species name for this mushroom translates to “Ear of Judas.” English translations of Asian names for this mushroom include: “Wood Ear Mushroom” and “Cloud Ear Mushroom.”
This is one of the strangest fungi you can find in North America. Like other jelly fungi, it is characterized by its squishy, gelatinous texture. Most jelly fungi have a fairly disorganized, globular structure. However, Pseudohydnum gelatinosum has a distinct stipe, pileus, and spore surface. In fact, its spores are borne on teeth, much like the unrelated Hedgehog Mushroom (Hydnum repandum)!
Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Legend has it that witches use this fungus to cast hexes. When this fungus appears on your gate or door, you have certainly been the victim of a witch’s evil spell. The only way to counter the hex is to pierce the fungus with straight pins, allowing the inner juices to drain and thus killing the fungus and the spell. Unfortunately for those who believe this superstition, this method probably doesn’t work too well for two reasons. First, the mushroom is specifically designed to survive repeated dehydration and rehydration. Second, the main body of the fungus is still living inside the wood. Unless you replace the wood you will probably find the mushroom repeatedly fruiting from the same place.
As you might guess, jelly fungi are distinguished by their gelatinous consistency. Their external appearance varies widely, so their texture is the only macroscopic feature that defines this group. These fungi are placed within the phylum Basidiomycota, but they produce basidia (spore-bearing structures) unlike those of most other basidiomycetes (for more on basidia see FFF#013). Because of this, they are often placed in the artificial group of fungi called heterobasidiomycetes. The heterobasidiomycetes also include rusts and smuts, which do not form mushrooms. Jelly fungi produce three different variations on the normal basidium (holobasidium) morphology. Holobasidia have a bulbous, undivided base topped with spore-bearing steritmata. The first variaition on this model is the cruciate basidium. Cruciate basidia have a bulbous base divided into four cells by septa (cell walls). The septa are at right angles to one another, making a cross shape when the basidium is viewed from above. A good...
This beautiful jelly mushroom also goes by a variety of other common names, including: silver ear fungus, white ear fungus, and white jelly fungus. The fungus fruits from decaying wood and produces white, translucent mushrooms that have a gelatinous consistency. Its name seems to come from its white color and roughly snowball-shaped fruiting bodies. Although, if you ask me, its name was probably also inspired by its “graceful lobes,”* which look somewhat like large, squishy points on a snowflake. The snow fungus’s range is tropical to subtropical, but it can apparently be found in the United States at least as far north as Indiana. Despite its name, you will not find this mushroom poking out of snow-covered branches. The mushroom prefers to fruit in the summer and fall, so if you want to see this fungus for yourself you’ll either have to wait half a year or visit the mushroom...