Sunday, April 15, 2012

Witches Butter

While hiking last week with a school group we came across this bright yellow fungus growing on a rotting log. I had no idea what it was and was determined before the day was over I would no its identity.
I searched through several mushroom books and located it in a book written by Maxine Stone on Missouri's mushrooms. It is called Witches Butter (Tremella mesenterica) and is a type of jelly fungus. It is a common fungus associated with mixed deciduous hardwood forests. It is most frequently found in the cracks and crevices of newly fallen limbs., Right after a rainfall is a good time to spot this beautiful, small jelly-like mushroom. Within a few days of emerging it will dry and form a film on the log where it was found. If it rains again the fungus will revive and bloom again. It has a very slimy texture and lives up to its name of Jelly fungus. I love the common name of Witches butter, as I find it a fanciful and mythical name. You can almost picture a couple little witched sitting in the woodlands spreading "witches butter" on their toast over their morning tea time. This fungus does go by other equally fantastic names such as yellow brain, golden jelly fungus, and yellow trembler (because it trembles at the merest touch).

This fungus is found year around and may be seen during winter thaws or during mild winters like we experienced this past season. It may range in color from bright yellow to pale yellow. It is reported to be edible, but has no real discernible taste. It is used to add texture to soups and stews.

The snail in the following picture seemed fond of it however. Any self respecting snail or slug will not turn down a tasty mushroom dinner.