Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Layers upon layers

The trunk of an old deciduous, lichen-covered tree sprouted orange flower look-alikes.

Orange crispy, on a lichen-covered deciduous tree, Tyee Spit.

I've walked past this tree dozens of times, and never noticed these before. They are quite noticeable, even from a distance.

I touched them; they're hard, dry, firmly attached to the tree. Not jelly-like at all. A dry witches butter. It had been a couple of days since it rained.

These two clumps are about an inch and a half across.

These are much smaller. The front one looks like its pushing its way out from inside the bark.

The fungus grows parasitically on the mycelium of wood-rotting corticioid fungi in the genus Peniophora. (Wikipedia)

The Peniophora are crust fungi that infect and decompose wood. Looking at photos, I realize that I've seen them without paying enough attention. So basically, the witches' butter is a parasite on a parasite.

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
(Jonathan Swift, 1667 - 1745)


  1. The texture reminds me of a black fungus popular in Chinese cuisine. It reminds me that mushrooms aren't the only edible fungus (though their potential for toxicity means experimentation is not a good idea)

    1. There's another fungus, too, called Black Witches' Butter. A different species, too small to be interesting as food, and of "dubious edibility", to boot. Exidia glandulosa. Not the one you are thinking of, obviously. I don't remember seeing it (the one you mention) in the market.


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