There are a lot of cool fungi in K-Country. Witches’ Butter, Tremella mesenterica, has to rank well up in the weirdness world.
This is a jelly fungus. It changes size, texture and appearance with rain and moisture. Its lumpy, gelatinous fruiting body shrivels up to a thin film when dry. Add a bit of rain and it swells right back up again.
It grows in crevices of bark, especially of dead trees and branches. It is also parasitic, growing on a few other tree-eating fungi, as well as directly on trees. This particular Tremella species is found around the world, and doesn’t really care what tree it digests.
It has a lot of common names. They include Yellow Trembler, Yellow Brain (because it looks like a brain), Golden Jelly Fungus and Witches’ Butter. The latter comes from Swedish folklore surrounding it: that it is bile spewed up by thieving “Carriers”. However, in reality, it reproduces not by vomiting, but by spores that go through a yeast-like phase and asexual reproduction. According to Eastern European legend, the appearance of the Witch’s Butter fungus upon the gate or door of one’s home meant that one’s home and family had been targeted by the spell of a witch. The only remedy for lifting the evil spell was to pierce the yellow fungus with something sharp until it died. Except that doesn’t work; it just rehydrates after the next rainfall.
It is edible, and there is some science suggesting that it has medicinal value. Tremella is currently being researched for its anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, cholesterol-reducing and other biological activities. None have been proven, however. Reports are it tastes bland. It’s long been used in Asian cuisine as a thickener for soups.
Meet some of the other cool fungi of K-Country here!