A Jelly That Grows on Trees

A Jelly (Well, a Fungus) That Grows on Trees

By Renn Tumlison, tumlison@hsu.edu

Most people recognize bread mold and toadstool-shaped mushrooms, and know that they are fungi. There are some other less well recognized forms, however, that are common. These include the jelly fungi that grow on dead limbs. Jelly fungi do not possess a stem and have no gills. They are found most often after spring or winter rains when the fruiting bodies swell with moisture.

Brown Jelly Combo

 A brown form often has the shape of a human ear, so it is called by common names such as Jelly Ear, Tree Ear, or Wood Ear. The technical name for the species Auricularia auricula-judae is derived from the Latin word for ear. It grows on trees and fallen logs, but a similar Jelly Ear named Exidia recisa (shown here) commonly is found on small, dead branches on the ground. Their shape and color also is similar to that of a large prune. When dry, it is a thin brownish-black growth not easily seen until it becomes saturated with water after rains. This fungus can absorb water and eventually weigh over 60 times its dry weight.

A bright yellow or orange form is known as Witch’s butter. The species growing on pine (shown here) is Dacrymyces palmatus, and a similar species that grows on oaks, Tremella mesenterica, also is known to be a parasite on other fungi found on decaying wood.  

Yellow Jelly

Jelly fungi are considered to be edible, but most references mention that they are bland or have little flavor. A species in China is used in soups and salads, and they may be used in egg rolls and other dishes.  

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