Jeff Green | Nov 03, 2005
NatureReflections November 3, 2005
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Nature ReflectionsNovember 3, 2005
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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright
Coming up the walkway to my back door if you look closely, you will see nestled among the grasses and weeds a number of greenish-black blobs, looking a lot like dark piles of ‘you-know-what’ a bunch of dogs might leave behind.
As near as I can determine these blobs are a Jelly Fungus. As the name suggests, fungi in this family have fruiting bodies in a gelatinous matrix. They look totally unlike their cousins, the mushrooms and toadstools; nevertheless, like them, they have the spores borne externally on basidia - though these are structurally different from those on mushrooms.
This particular member of the family, which I have been unable to identify, appears in the latter part of the summer after rain. Like other members of that family the characteristic rubbery or gelatinous flesh becomes rock-hard when dry, and almost disappears. With the rains and damp weather it can quickly reappear. Touch this one and it is rubbery, though not slimy, and can be pulled or stretched to an uneven sheet, reminding me of seaweed. Looking very black on the ground, it is, in the stretched sheet form, translucent and appears greener. There are quite a number of species of Jelly Fungi, and most are usually found on logs, stumps, and twigs. Apparently a few species are edible though usually they are not large enough to be interesting as food - many have not been sampled, and some do not taste good. Apricot Jelly Fungus is eaten, but does not have much flavour, rather adding a delicate pinkish-orange colour to salads. A white jelly fungus may be found in Chinese or Japanese specialty food stores having been imported in cans or bags from the Orient.
Several of these fungi have interesting names - Orange Jelly, found on dead conifer logs; Witch’s Butter found on hardwood logs during prolonged wet periods; Ear Fungus, ear-shaped and found on dead branches, which is edible; Yellow Brain Fungus, conspicuously coloured golden yellow, may be spotted from a considerable distance on dead branches; and Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus, small fan-shaped tongues that emerge from decorticated wood in clusters or dense rows through cracks in the wood.
Some members of this ‘jelly group’ are not obviously gelatinous - False Coral Fungus consists of dry, flattened branches, and Yellow Staghorn Fungus is tough and persistent with open pointed branches. Conversely some Sac Fungi produce their fruiting bodies in a gelatinous matrix, but the spores are borne internally, which differentiates them from Jelly Fungi.
This rather unattractive resident on my property is another of nature’s mysteries. If anyone knows what this species might be, let me know.