Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the November 22, 2015 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

As the rainy season draws to a close the ground is soggy, the air is heavy with humidity and the odor of mold and mud, and the vegetation is as lush and green as it'll get. In short, this is the time to look for fungi.

Despite the perfect-for-fungi weather, the Yucatan in general is fungus-poor. That's because of our dry season, which for half of the year or more keeps things too dry for moisture-loving fungi.

Still, this week, on a decaying tree stem that had been cut next to the garden, a bunch of pretty ones showed up, as seen below:


In the close-up atop this page you can see the fungus's fan shape and its darkened, well differentiated stem.

With this fungus's rubbery texture and lack of gills, it's clearly a kind of jelly fungus, so simply by doing a Google image search on the keywords "jelly fungus wood" very soon identified pictures turned up showing what's in our picture. It's DACRYOPINAX SPATHULARIA, sometimes known as the Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus, and it enjoys a practically worldwide distribution.

Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus is a saprophyte on wood, meaning that it feeds on dead wood. It's surprising how many pictures of the species show fruiting bodies issuing from cracks in wood, not only natural cracks such as those in our picture but also on old buildings where moisture has seeped into joints between wooden planks, causing wood rot. This fungus is really a wood-crack specialist.

Despite the lack of gills or pores of the kind beneath many mushroom caps, jelly fungi such as Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus do produce microscopic spores known as basidiospores. These, instead of being shed from gills or pores, come loose from the surface of the jelly fungus's body.

At least in Asia, Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus is added to certain dishes to add taste and texture. Most mushroom eaters here would regard them as too small and bland to bother with.