Comparison of basidia. A, basidia in most mushrooms; B, two types of basidia in
Partly dried woods ear.
Remoistened woods ear.
Jelly fungi make rubbery, seaweed-like
mushrooms. They are colored white, orange, pink, rose, brown or black. The
mushrooms are shapeless, shaped like cups, railroad spikes or branched like
coral. The common name of yellow to orange species is witches butter.
Jelly fungi are really different than other mushrooms. The basidia
(spore-making cells) of most mushrooms are a single, club-like cell. They are
found on ridges or lining tubes under the mushroom cap. The basidia of jelly
fungi either have walls or are forked. They are located on the upper surface,
not the lower surface.
The only species grown and sold in stores is clouds ear or woods ear
(Auricularia auricula). It is used in soup. Some people like the
slippery, crunchy texture.
Jelly fungi often grow on logs, stumps and twigs. Some species are parasitic on
other fungi, mosses, ferns or seed plants. The best time to find them is in the
fall or in the spring below melting snow banks. Their rubbery flesh may protect
them from drying out and against freezing. They shrink when the air is dry and
then swell up again when it rains. It may be why they are found in the spring
and fall when other mushrooms are not.