Tremella mesenterica (Witch’s Butter)
Tremella mesenterica is a parasitic fungi that feeds off of the Peniphora sp. of fungi, both of which inhabit and parasitize the decaying wood of deciduous tree species. It is also commonly known as Witch’s Butter because of it’s appearance. This species is common to the Pacific Northwest and temperate climates, and a known edible and medicinal species. It is flavorless and has a fun texture.
Tremella mesenterica is sometimes confused with other species of jelly mushrooms. Tremella aurantia, a RelativE known as Golden Ear. It is sometimes also called Witch’s Butter. However, although it also is parasitic, it is a darker orange jelly mushroom that grows on a different fungi, a shelf mushroom called Stereum hirsutum, a.k.a False Turkey Tail. Both Stereum hirsutum and Peniphora sp. grow on deciduous tree species.
Another relative of Tremella mesenterica, is a species that is not in the same family, and isn’t even parasitic at all. It is a saprotrophic species that grows on dead and decaying conifer tree wood called Dacrymyces chrysospermus and also known as D. palmatus. D. chrysospermus is also jelly in appearance but is more orange than Tremella mesenterica and less orange than Tremella aurantia.
All three mushrooms are related even though they have different eating habits, living arrangements, and color. They are all medicinal, belonging to over 100 jelly mushrooms, and carrying the same polysaccharides. The different families and genera are currently being split up by scientists, the more they learn about their genetics.