Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Orange Jelly

Often fascinated by the variety of mosses and lichens here in the Pacific Northwest, the different fungi growing on and around our forest floor is an interesting study as well. Walking the trail around the back, forested side of Lake Padden, we found masses of orange jelly, the fungi rather than what one might put on toast, blooming on a decaying log.Without examining a specimen on a slide under a microscope, it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to determine whether this orange jelly is Dacrymyces palmatus, or Tremella aurantia, both more commonly called Witches Butter, or, quite simply, jelly fungus.
Edible, but said to be lacking in flavor and texture, it is more suitable to being eaten raw as it melts rather quickly when heated. Sometimes prized as a flavoring for soups or vegetable dishes, it is rarely sought by mushroom hunters here. Growing in gelatinous globs, it seems a bit slimy and snotty in appearance to me. I'm sure I would need to be very, very hungry - and a long way from home - before I would ever consider eating any.
An owl perched in a nearby tree was hooting at us as we studied the fungi growing on those decaying logs, then finally took flight heading down the trail. Often seen with babies perched in those same branches in the early spring, even though we've had unseasonably warm weather this winter, it being only February, this resident owl still seems to be flying solo.

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