Tremella mesenterica: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Tremella mesenterica Mushroom
Tremella mesenterica is an edible jelly mushroom. It can bear fruit at any time of the year, but it is commonly found in Autumn and Winter. It is most frequently found on the dead but attached and on recently fallen branches, especially of angiosperms, as a parasite of wood decay fungi in the genus Peniophora.
Tremella mesenterica can survive repeated bouts of dehydration and re-hydration and will usually be found emerging from the bark of fallen or dead wood.
Being the color of butter, Tremella mesenterica is also referred to as Witches’ butter sometimes. It is important to note that this is a name also used for other yellow and orange jelly mushrooms or fungi and essentially the use of the scientific name will clarify the precise mushroom species being referred to.
Biomedical researchers in China recently discovered that this fungus produces polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate. For this reason, it is believed to be a powerful immune enhancer.
This fungus occurs widely in deciduous and mixed forests and is widely distributed in temperate and tropical regions that include Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.
Other names: Witch's Butter, Yellow Brain, Golden Jelly Fungus, Yellow Trembler.
Tremella mesenterica Identification
Parasitic on the mycelium of species of Peniophora (a genus of crust fungi); growing alone or in amorphous clusters on the decaying sticks and logs of oaks and other hardwoods (usually when bark is still adnate); usually appearing in spring, in temperate areas, but also appearing in summer, fall, and winter; widely distributed in North America, but possibly less common in western North America. The illustrated and described collections are from Illinois and Indiana.
A mass of lobes or brainlike sections 2–5 cm across and 1–3 cm high; surface bald, moist, dull to bright yellow or orangish-yellow; flesh gelatinous, yellow; fading and sometimes becoming amorphous and poorly defined with old age or in wet conditions; drying to an orangish-yellow crust.
The spores, when viewed in a mass, are white or pale yellow.
Tremella mesenterica Medicinal Uses
Pharmacologically active polysaccharides make up the bulk of the fruit body, 60-90%, while with other medicinal mushrooms the polysaccharides make up a much smaller part of the biomass, 10-30%.
Polysaccharides significantly inhibit cancer cell DNA synthesis and growth in mice
Rich in provitamin D, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression and obesity.
Polysaccharides are made up of hemicellulose, a soluble fiber, having a hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic effect.
The polysaccharides are known for their water holding capacities
Good for skin elasticity – brew fruiting bodies as a thick gelatinous tea and apply to the skin with a cotton pad. Rinse out after 30 minutes.
Anti-oxidant and immunomodulating, the polysaccharides stimulate macrophage enzyme activity.
Could be used to treat stomach ulcers. Soothing to the GI and has also shown to be effective against H. pylori.
Increased immune function with type 1 diabetic mice
One study, showed a decrease in blood sugar to normal levels for 24 hours.
Ethanol extract caused apoptosis in human lung carcinoma epithelial cells.
Tremella mesenterica Similar Species
Tremella mesenterica is not the only yellow gelatinous fungus that appears on logs. In fact, there is one closely related species that is indistinguishable from Tremella mesenterica without microscopic analysis: T. aurantia. That fungus is parasitic on the crust fungus Stereum hirsutum, which also grows on hardwoods. Unless you find the fruiting bodies of the host, you can’t be sure which species you’ve found. Microscopically, T. aurantia has smaller spores, smaller basidia with stalks, and lacks vesicles. If you don’t have access to a microscope to check those characteristics, just call what you’ve found Witch’s Butter, since that common name is used for both mushrooms.
The jelly fungus Dacrymyces palmatus is also very similar and looks like a smaller version of Tremella mesenterica at first glance. However, closer inspection usually reveals minute differences. Assessing the type of wood is very useful for differentiating between the two species, since D. palmatus grows only on conifer wood. Another feature to check is the point of attachment; D. palmatus is tough and white where it connects to its substrate. If you’re still not sure, look at the mushroom’s basidia under the microscope. D. palmatus can be readily distinguished by its Y-shaped “tuning fork basidia.”
Tremella mesenterica Taxonomy & Etymology
This jelly fungus was originally described in 1769 by Swedish botanist Anders Jahan Retzius (1742 - 1821), who called it Tremella mesenterica, by which name mycologists still refer to it today.
Synonyms of Tremella mesenterica include Exidia candida, Tremella albida, Tremella candida, Tremella lutescens Pers., and Hormomyces aurantiacus Bonord.
Tremella mesenterica is the type species of the genus Tremella.
Tremella, the generic name means trembling - a reference to the wobbly-jelly-like structure of fungi within this grouping, The specific epithet mesenterica is derived from two Ancient Greek words meso- meaning middle, and -enteron meaning intestine, suggesting that this fungus looks more like a middle intestine that a brain.
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