Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Jelly Mushroom

Today, after the rain, I decided to go for a short walk around the block to breath some fresh air, relax, and to see what kind of mushrooms I could find. Since it rained quite a lot over the last couple of days the grass was full of Panaeolus fonisecii (see previous post about this mushroom).  Apart from that, I ended finding two interesting mushrooms. One of them I could not identify (submitted to the Mushroom Observer website). The other I could at least determine the genera, and I have some pretty good idea of what it could be (I am not 100% sure though). Since this is the first jelly mushroom I found, I was quite excited but, if I weren't into mushrooms, I would probably find it very yucky and run from it fast, for it looks like some sort of alien creature directly from the x-files.

Date: 05/23/2010

Location: Rockville, MD (East Jefferson St)
Habitat: Growing on a dead tree, near a brook, forming large clusters that were less than 50 cm from each other (gregarious)

Description: This mushroom does not have a stipe (stem) and grows attached to the tree, it is jelly-like (soft and wet at touch), dark brown, wrinkled, amorphous (this is important to separate it from Auricularia auricula - a.k.a. Jelly ear). The clusters were sometimes larger than 10 cm of diameter. It has no odor and, because I was not brave enough to try it, I can't say anything about its taste ;-)

Impression: This is definitely not a jelly-ear mushroom (since it is not ear shaped and it is too amorphous to be called an ear). To me, it looks like one of the many members of the genera Tremella (most probably Tremella foliacea). Because of the very dark brown color (the photo is not very accurate and in reality it is much darker than depicted) I find it difficult to ascertain the species. At least we can exclude the very common Tremella mesenterica (which is usually pale yellow  to golden yellow).   Given the atypical dark color, the fact that I do not have a microscope at home, and that it is somewhat difficult to obtain a spore print, I am going to call this one only Tremella sp. (although I almost feel like calling it Tremella foliacea). According to The Falcon Guide to North American Mushrooms, if it were really T. foliacea, it would be edible, but it has no taste and have an awful jelly texture.

Note:  Dan Molter pointed out at my post at the Mushroom Observer that this mushroom could be Exidia recisa (Ditmar) Fr (a.k.a. Amber jelly roll). I am not sure yet, but it is a good possibility since Exidia has been described as having colors varying from yellowish-brown to cinnamon-brown (see description at Mushrooms of Northeastern North America) which fit better with the specimen appearance. Best way to be sure would be to look the mushroom under the microscope (which I may do later this week). Keep in mind that if indeed it were Exidia, then this would be a fungi of unknown edibility. See more information on Exidia here (identificationkey), here (microscopic anatomy) and here (wikipedia entry).

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