Monday 5 July 2010

#34 Auricularia cornea

Many newly emerged fungi fruiting bodies look vastly different to the mature fungus, making identification difficult. In this blog I will try to illustrate, in photos, the different stages of the life cycle.

Auricularia cornea (Jelly Ear Fungus),belongs to the jelly group, which are generally gelatinous in texture and appearance, having a high water content.

The upper sterile surface of Auricularia cornea is covered in a dense silky coat of minute pale grey hairs. The lower fertile surface is smooth and hairless. The spores are white, and I have actually been successful obtaining a spore print (not an easy task for jelly fungi).

The shape of a mature fungus is usually convex. When crowding occurs, the fungi are contorted into irregular shapes, often with wrinkled surfaces. The consistency of the flesh is tough (doesn't break with rough treatment, and is difficult to tear with force), wobbly in a gelatinous manner - rubber-like. Colour is reddish brown, and translucent, drying to nearly black.

Auricularia cornea has the remarkable ability to rehydrate many months after it has dried out. I have witnessed a colony of this fungus rehydrate several times after rain throughout a 1 year period. I presume the fruiting bodies are resistant to insect and invertebrate attack when in a dessicated state, but I am unaware if the rehydrated fungus produces a second or third flush of spores.

Substrate is dead wood in tropical to subtropical forests, but I have observed them on dying exotic trees in suburbia.

A freshly rehydrated colony of Auricularia cornea

Tiny new velvety fruiting bodies of Jelly Ear Fungus.
The right-hand top corner of the image is covered
by a mature specimen.

A close-up of new fruiting bodies about 1cm in diameter.
Notice more new fungi pushing up the bark of the tree.

Smooth maturing specimens.
Notice the hollow surface white with spores.

Without crowding, the fungi are not wrinkled.
Minutely hairy upper surface, smooth undersurface

Some will take on strange shapes,
but still generally convex.

Note the tiny new fruiting bodies above and below.

The velvety hairy upper surface joined to wood.

Fruiting bodies can reach in excess of 100mm.

Crinkled, translucent, crowded fruiting bodies.

Auricularia cornea fruiting bodies dry to an almost black
under surface, but will return to cinnamon-brown
when rehydrated by rain.

My sightings of Auricularia cornea

[This will be updated with more sightings]

Singleton, Hunter Valley, NSW - Dying exotic tree, residential garden, all year

Barrington Tops National Park, NSW - Dead wood, rainforest

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, Heatherbrae, HV - Dead wood, woodland

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Edit - an interesting experiment: Following a heavy downpour 14th July 2010, I collected some rehydrated fruit bodies of Auricularia cornea from the tree in my front yard and prepared them for spore prints. I successfully collected excellent spore prints, therefore it is interesting to note that rehydrated fungi (this species, at least), do in fact produce new flushes of spores.


elfram said...

What a marvellous idea, and what an informative way to engage with the natural world. This is enlightening indeed!

Gaye said...

Hello Bill,

thanks. It is exciting getting out and observing the natural world, and it just makes good sense, as you know with your website, to share observations. I want to get out and record as many fungi as possible while I am still living in an area where fungi are prolific. When I move up to the semi-arid northwest of NSW, there will be fewer to discover.


Unknown said...

These are fascinating entries. I'm wondering if they are edible as we have what looks like jelly ear fungus growing in our back yard.
Kind regards Liz