While walking along the edge of a cypress swamp in southern Illinois last month, some small, yellow, irregularly lobed, gelatinous masses caught my eye.
Witches’ Butter has fruiting bodies that are brain-like, sulfur yellow-to-pale yellow and have a gelatinous texture. It grows in masses on dead deciduous wood, especially oaks.
This fungi’s full-time job is to inhabit dead wood as a parasite that gets nourishment by digesting the tissues of an unrelated fungus (a crust-like fungus that is itself parasitizing and maybe killing the tree). Witches’ Butter is therefore a parasite of a parasite!
Witches’ Butter has a cosmopolitan distribution, having been recorded from Europe, North, Central, and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Its fruit bodies are formed during wet periods throughout the year.
A type of Jelly Fungi, the investigation of the medicinal benefits of Jelly Fungi has revealed that they stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and are useful in the treatment of allergies and diabetes.
This fungus is also known as Yellow Brain, Golden Jelly Fungus and Yellow Trembler.