The fruiting body of witch’s butter (Tremelia mesenterica) is gelatinous when moist and fresh. When dry, this jelly fungus shrivels up, becomes hard and is inconspicuous, swelling up and reviving with the return of wet conditions. Witch’s butter thrives in cool, wet weather and can be often found during winter thaws in colder climates.
Witch’s butter grows on deciduous wood throughout North America favoring oak, beech and alder.
The color of the fruiting body, which consists of convoluted or brain-like lobes, can vary when fresh from clear yellow to orange yellow or bright orange. This fungus has no stalk, The spore-bearing surface is exposed and covers the lower and outer surfaces.
Witch’s butter is edible, but is mostly water and has little flavor. Probably the best culinary use for witch’s butter is as an addition to soups.
The witch’s butter fruiting body continues to swell with water as it ages and often loses its original lobed form and resembles a blob of butter on a log, leading to the common name.
Witch’s butter is noted for its association with wood-rotting fungi, especially hairy parchment (the topic of my next post). Hairy parchment (Stereum hirsutum) can be seen in the photographs, which were taken along Burney Creek above the falls in Burney Falls State Park (CA).