Tremella mesenterica

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Tremella mesenterica
Tremella mesenterica branch.JPG
Tremella mesenterica with Peniophora host
Scientific classification
T. mesenterica
Binomial name
Tremella mesenterica
Retz. (1769)
Synonyms [1]

Helvella mesentericaSchaeff. (1774)
Tremella lutescens Pers. (1798)
Tremella quercinaPollini (1816)


Tremella mesenterica
float Information icon.svg
Mycological characteristics
Smooth icon.pngsmooth hymenium
No cap icon.svgno distinct cap
NA cap icon.svg hymenium attachment is not applicable
NA cap icon.svglacks a stipe
White spore print icon.pngYellow spore print icon.png spore print is white to yellow
Parasitic fungus.svgecology is parasitic
Mycomorphbox Edible.pngedibility: edible

Tremella mesenterica (common names include yellow brain, golden jelly fungus, yellow trembler, and witches' butter [2] ) is a common jelly fungus in the Tremellaceae family of the Agaricomycotina. It is most frequently found on dead but attached and on recently fallen branches, especially of angiosperms, as a parasite of wood decay fungi in the genus Peniophora . [3] The gelatinous, orange-yellow fruit body of the fungus, which can grow up to 7.5 cm (3.0 in) diameter, has a convoluted or lobed surface that is greasy or slimy when damp. It grows in crevices in bark, appearing during rainy weather. Within a few days after rain it dries into a thin film or shriveled mass capable of reviving after subsequent rain. This fungus occurs widely in deciduous and mixed forests and is widely distributed in temperate and tropical regions that include Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. Although considered bland and flavorless, the fungus is edible. Tremella mesenterica produces carbohydrates that are attracting research interest because of their various biological activities.

In biology, a common name of a taxon or organism is a name that is based on the normal language of everyday life; this kind of name is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism, which is Latinized. A common name is sometimes frequently used, but that is by no means always the case.

Jelly fungus

Jelly fungi are a paraphyletic group of several heterobasidiomycete fungal orders from different classes of the subphylum Agaricomycotina: Tremellales, Dacrymycetales, Auriculariales and Sebacinales. These fungi are so named because their foliose, irregularly branched fruiting body is, or appears to be, the consistency of jelly. Actually, many are somewhat rubbery and gelatinous. When dried, jelly fungi become hard and shriveled; when exposed to water, they return to their original form.

Tremellaceae family of fungi

The Tremellaceae are a family of fungi in the order Tremellales. The family is cosmopolitan and contains both teleomorphic and anamorphic genera, most of the latter being yeasts. All teleomorphic species of fungi in the Tremellaceae are parasites of other fungi, though the yeast states are widespread and not restricted to hosts. Basidiocarps, when produced, are gelatinous.

Taxonomy and phylogeny

T. globispora

T. fuciformis

T. cinnabarina

T. flava

T. taiwanensis

T. brasiliensis

T. mesenterica

T. coalescens

T. tropica

Phylogeny and relationships of T. mesenterica and related species based on rDNA sequences. [4]

The species was originally described from Sweden as Helvella mesenterica by the naturalist Anders Jahan Retzius in 1769. It was later (1822) sanctioned by Elias Magnus Fries in the second volume of his Systema Mycologicum. [5] It is the type species of the genus Tremella. [6] Its distinctive appearance has led the species to accumulate a variety of common names, including "yellow trembler", [7] "yellow brain", "golden jelly fungus", and "witches' butter", although this latter name is also applied to Exidia glandulosa . [8] The specific epithet is a Latin adjective formed from the Ancient Greek word μεσεντεριον (mesenterion), "middle intestine", from μεσο- (meso-, "middle, center") and εντερον (enteron, "intestine"), referring to its shape. [9] [10]

Anders Jahan Retzius Swedish naturalist and professor of botany, chemist, and natural history, Lund University

Anders Jahan Retzius was a Swedish chemist, botanist and entomologist.

Sanctioned name

In mycology, a sanctioned name is a name that was adopted in certain works of Christiaan Hendrik Persoon or Elias Magnus Fries, which are considered major points in fungal taxonomy.

Elias Magnus Fries Swedish biologist (1794-1878)

Elias Magnus Fries FRS FRSE FLS RAS was a Swedish mycologist and botanist.

The species formerly recognized as Tremella lutescens is now seen as a form of T. mesenterica with washed-out colors and considered a synonym. [11]

In scientific nomenclature, a synonym is a scientific name that applies to a taxon that (now) goes by a different scientific name, although the term is used somewhat differently in the zoological code of nomenclature. For example, Linnaeus was the first to give a scientific name to the Norway spruce, which he called Pinus abies. This name is no longer in use: it is now a synonym of the current scientific name, Picea abies.

Based on molecular analysis of the sequences of the D1/D2 regions of the large subunit ribosomal RNA gene and the internal transcribed spacer regions of rRNA, T. mesenterica is most closely related to T. coalescens, T. tropica, and T. brasiliensis. This analysis included 20 of the estimated 120 Tremella species. [4]

Molecular phylogenetics The branch of phylogeny that analyzes genetic, hereditary molecular differences

Molecular phylogenetics is the branch of phylogeny that analyzes genetic, hereditary molecular differences, predominately in DNA sequences, to gain information on an organism's evolutionary relationships. From these analyses, it is possible to determine the processes by which diversity among species has been achieved. The result of a molecular phylogenetic analysis is expressed in a phylogenetic tree. Molecular phylogenetics is one aspect of molecular systematics, a broader term that also includes the use of molecular data in taxonomy and biogeography.

Ribosomal RNA RNA component of the ribosome, essential for protein synthesis in all living organisms

Ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) is the RNA component of the ribosome, and is essential for protein synthesis in all living organisms. It constitutes the predominant material within the ribosome, which is approximately 60% rRNA and 40% protein by weight, or 3/5 of ribosome mass. Ribosomes contain two major rRNAs and 50 or more proteins. The ribosomal RNAs form two subunits, the large subunit (LSU) and small subunit (SSU). The LSU rRNA acts as a ribozyme, catalyzing peptide bond formation. The SSU and LSU rRNA sequences are widely used for working out evolutionary relationships among organisms, since they are of ancient origin and are found in all known forms of life.

Internal transcribed spacer (ITS) refers to the spacer DNA situated between the small-subunit ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and large-subunit rRNA genes in the chromosome or the corresponding transcribed region in the polycistronic rRNA precursor transcript.


The fruit body has an irregular shape, and usually breaks through the bark of dead branches. It is up to 7.5 cm (3.0 in) broad and 2.5 to 5.0 cm (1.0 to 2.0 in) high, rounded to variously lobed or brain-like in appearance. The fruit body is gelatin-like but tough when wet, and hard when dry. The surface is usually smooth, the lobes translucent, deep yellow or bright yellow-orange, fading to pale yellow, rarely unpigmented and white or colorless. The fruit bodies dry to a dark reddish or orange. The spores, viewed in mass, are whitish or pale yellow. [12]

Basidiocarp sporocarp of a basidiomycete, the multicellular structure on which the spore-producing hymenium is borne

In fungi, a basidiocarp, basidiome or basidioma is the sporocarp of a basidiomycete, the multicellular structure on which the spore-producing hymenium is borne. Basidiocarps are characteristic of the hymenomycetes; rusts and smuts do not produce such structures. As with other sporocarps, epigeous (above-ground) basidiocarps that are visible to the naked eye are commonly referred to as mushrooms, while hypogeous (underground) basidiocarps are usually called false truffles.

Bark (botany) external parenchymal tissue, located just below the epidermis in the primary structure of the stem

Bark is the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants. Plants with bark include trees, woody vines, and shrubs. Bark refers to all the tissues outside the vascular cambium and is a nontechnical term. It overlays the wood and consists of the inner bark and the outer bark. The inner bark, which in older stems is living tissue, includes the innermost area of the periderm. The outer bark in older stems includes the dead tissue on the surface of the stems, along with parts of the innermost periderm and all the tissues on the outer side of the periderm. The outer bark on trees which lies external to the last formed periderm is also called the rhytidome.

Spore Unit of asexual reproduction that may be adapted for dispersal and for survival, often for extended periods of time, in unfavorable conditions; spores form part of the life cycles of many plants, algae, fungi and protozoa

In biology, a spore is a unit of sexual or asexual reproduction that may be adapted for dispersal and for survival, often for extended periods of time, in unfavourable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many plants, algae, fungi and protozoa. Bacterial spores are not part of a sexual cycle but are resistant structures used for survival under unfavourable conditions. Myxozoan spores release amoebulae into their hosts for parasitic infection, but also reproduce within the hosts through the pairing of two nuclei within the plasmodium, which develops from the amoebula.

Microscopic characteristics

The basidia (spore-bearing cells) are ellipsoid to roughly spherical in shape, not or rarely stalked, and typically 15–21  µm wide. They contain two to four septa that divide it into compartments; the septa are most frequently diagonal or vertical. Asexual reproduction in T. mesenterica is carried out through the formation of spores called conidia, which arise from conidiophores—specialized hyphal cells that are morphologically distinct from the somatic hyphae. The conidiophores are densely branched and normally abundant in the hymenium; young specimens may be entirely conidial. The conidia are roughly spherical, ovoid, or ellipsoid, and about 2.0–3.0 by 2.0–2.5 µm. They may be so numerous that young fruit bodies may be covered in a bright yellow, conidial slime. The spores are broadly ellipsoid to oblong, on average 10.0–16.0 by 6.0–9.5 µm; they germinate by germ tube or by yeast-like conidia of identical form to the conidia produced on the conidiophores. [13]

Micrometre one millionth of a metre

The micrometre or micrometer, also commonly known by the previous name micron, is an SI derived unit of length equalling 1×10−6 metre ; that is, one millionth of a metre.


A conidium, sometimes termed an asexual chlamydospore or chlamydoconidium, is an asexual, non-motile spore of a fungus. The name comes from the Greek word for dust, κόνις kónis. They are also called mitospores due to the way they are generated through the cellular process of mitosis. The two new haploid cells are genetically identical to the haploid parent, and can develop into new organisms if conditions are favorable, and serve in biological dispersal.

Morphology (biology) In biology, the form and structure of organisms

Morphology is a branch of biology dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.


Although some have claimed the fungus to be inedible [11] or merely "non-poisonous", [10] most other sources agree that it is edible [14] [15] but flavorless. [16] [17] The gelatinous to rubbery consistency lends texture to soups. [18] In China, the fungus is used by vegetarians to prepare "an immunomodulating cooling soup with lotus seed, lily bulbs, jujube, etc." [19]

Similar species

Tremella mesenterica (Manjimup, Western Australia).jpg
Tremella aurantia with Stereum host
Dacrymyces palmatus 1354.JPG
Dacrymyces chrysospermus

Tremella mesenterica is frequently confused with Tremella aurantia , a widespread species parasitic on the plant pathogenic fungus Stereum hirsutum . Tremella aurantia can often be recognized by the presence of its host, which typically grows on logs, stumps, and trunks. Though the two species are similarly colored, the surface of T. aurantia is usually matte, not greasy or shiny, and its lobes or folds are thicker than those of T. mesenterica. Fruit bodies of T. aurantia contain unclamped, thick-walled host hyphae and consequently retain their shape when dried, rather than shriveling or collapsing to a film (as in T. mesenterica). Microscopically, T. aurantia has smaller basidia and smaller, differently shaped spores measuring 8.5–10 by 7–8.5 µm. [6] [13] [20] T. brasiliensis , known from neotropical areas and Japan, and the North American species T. mesenterella are also similar. [6]

Tremella mesenterica may also be confused with members of the Dacrymycetaceae family, like Dacrymyces chrysospermus (formerly D. palmatus), due to their superficial resemblance. [12] Microscopic examination shows that the Dacrymycetaceae have Y-shaped basidia with two spores, unlike the longitudinally split basidia characteristic of Tremella; [21] additionally, D. chrysospermus is smaller, has a whitish attachment point to its substrate, and grows on conifer wood. [12]

Life cycle

Tremella mesenterica has a yeastlike phase in its life cycle that arises as a result of budding of basidiospores. The alternation between asexual and sexual propagation is achieved by mating of yeast-form haploid cells of two compatible mating types. [22] Each mating type secretes a mating pheromone that elicits sexual differentiation of the target cell having the opposite mating type to the pheromone-producing cell. The sexual differentiation is characterized by the arrest of the growth in the G1 phase of the cell division cycle and subsequent formation of an elongated mating tube. Formation of the mating tube, initiated by the pheromones A-10 and a-13, is similar to the process of bud emergence during bipolar budding in yeasts. [23] Tremerogen A-10 has been purified and its chemical structure found to be S-polyisoprenyl peptide. [24] Fruit bodies arise from a primordium located beneath the wood bark, and sometimes more than one fruit body can originate separately from the same primordia. [6]

Habitat and distribution

Typical habit Tremella mesenterica 32807.jpg
Typical habit

Tremella mesenterica has a cosmopolitan distribution, having been recorded from Europe, North, Central, and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. [13] [25] Fruit bodies are formed during wet periods throughout the year. In British Columbia, Canada, it is sometimes found on maple, poplar, or pine, but is most abundant on red alder. [7] It prefers to grow in habitats ranging from mesic to wet. [6] The fungus grows parasitically on the mycelium of wood-rotting corticioid fungi in the genus Peniophora . [3] Occasionally, T. mesenterica and its host fungus can be found fruiting together. [16]

Bioactive compounds

Some Tremella species produce polysaccharides that are of interest to the medical field, because of their biological activity; several patents have been filed in China pertaining to the use of these compounds for cancer prevention or immune system enhancement. [26] In 1966, Slodki reported discovering an acidic polysaccharide from haploid cells of T. mesenterica that closely resembled those produced by the species Cryptococcus laurentii . The structural similarity of the polysaccharides from the two species suggested a phylogenetic relationship between them. [27] Subsequently, researchers chemically synthesized the polysaccharide, [28] and determined the chemical identities of the component sugar units. [29] The polysaccharide, known as glucuronoxylomannan—produced by fruit bodies and in pure culture conditions—has been shown to consist of a mannan backbone that is glycosylated with xylan chains in a regular repeating structure. [30] Laboratory tests have associated a number of biological activities with T. mesenterica glucuronoxylomannan, including immunostimulatory,antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolemic, hepatoprotective, and antiallergic effects. [31] [32]

Related Research Articles

Basidiomycota division of fungi

Basidiomycota is one of two large divisions that, together with the Ascomycota, constitute the subkingdom Dikarya within the kingdom Fungi.

<i>Tremella fuciformis</i> species of fungus

Tremella fuciformis is a species of fungus; it produces white, frond-like, gelatinous basidiocarps. It is widespread, especially in the tropics, where it can be found on the dead branches of broadleaf trees. This fungus is commercially cultivated and is one of the most popular fungi in the cuisine and medicine of China. Tremella fuciformis is commonly known as snow fungus, snow ear, silver ear fungus, and white jelly mushroom.

Filobasidiella is a genus of fungi in the family Tremellaceae. Species are parasitic on other fungi and do not produce distinct basidiocarps. The genus is the teleomorphic (sexual) state of the yeast genus Cryptococcus, some species of which are human pathogens.

Auriculariales order of fungi

The Auriculariales are an order of fungi in the class Agaricomycetes. Species within the order were formerly referred to the "heterobasidiomycetes" or "jelly fungi", since many have gelatinous basidiocarps that produce spores on septate basidia. Around 200 species are known worldwide, placed in six or more families, though the status of these families is currently uncertain. All species in the Auriculariales are believed to be saprotrophic, most growing on dead wood. Fruit bodies of several Auricularia species are cultivated for food on a commercial scale, especially in China.

Auriculariaceae family of fungi

The Auriculariaceae are a family of fungi in the order Auriculariales. Species within the family were formerly referred to the "heterobasidiomycetes" or "jelly fungi", since many have gelatinous basidiocarps that produce spores on septate basidia. Around 100 species are known worldwide. All are believed to be saprotrophic, most growing on dead wood. Fruit bodies of several Auricularia species are cultivated for food on a commercial scale, especially in China.

Tremellales order of fungi

The Tremellales are an order of fungi in the class Tremellomycetes. The order contains both teleomorphic and anamorphic species, most of the latter being yeasts. All teleomorphic species in the Tremellales are parasites of other fungi, though the yeast states are widespread and not restricted to hosts. Basidiocarps, when produced, are gelatinous.

Hyaloriaceae family of fungi

The Hyaloriaceae are a family of fungi in the order Auriculariales. Species within the family have gelatinous basidiocarps that produce spores on septate basidia and, as such, were formerly referred to the "heterobasidiomycetes" or "jelly fungi". All appear to be saprotrophic, growing on dead wood or plant remains. Less than 10 species are currently included within the Hyaloriaceae, but the family has not been extensively researched.

<i>Crucibulum</i> genus of fungi

Crucibulum is a genus in the Nidulariaceae, a family of fungi whose fruiting bodies resemble tiny egg-filled bird's nests. Often called "splash cups", the fruiting bodies are adapted for spore dispersal by using the kinetic energy of falling drops of rain. The "eggs" inside the bird's nests are hard waxy shells containing spores, and tend to stick to whatever nearby herbage they land on, thus increasing the odds of being consumed and dispersed by herbivorous animals. Members of this genus are saprobic, obtaining nutrients from dead organic matter, and are typically found growing on decayed wood and wood debris. The three known Crucibulum species are distinguished from other genera of the Nidulariaceae by their relatively simple funiculus – a cord of hyphae that connects the peridiole to the exterior of the bird's nest.

<i>Tremella aurantia</i> species of fungus

Tremella aurantia is a species of fungus in the family Tremellaceae. The common name of this species is golden ear. T. aurantia is similar in appearance to witch's butter, Tremella mesenterica, but has basidia which are stalked instead of sessile and parasitizes the mycelium of Stereum hirsutum instead of Peniophora.

<i>Exidia glandulosa</i> species of fungus

Exidia glandulosa is a jelly fungus in the family Auriculariaceae. It is a common, wood-rotting species in Europe, typically growing on dead attached branches of oak. The fruit bodies are up to 3 cm (1.2 in) wide, shiny, black and blister-like, and grow singly or in clusters. Its occurrence elsewhere is uncertain because of confusion with the related species, Exidia nigricans.

<i>Exidia nigricans</i> jelly fungus

Exidia nigricans is a jelly fungus in the family Auriculariaceae. It is a common, wood-rotting species throughout the northern hemisphere, typically growing on dead attached branches of broadleaf trees. It has been much confused with Exidia glandulosa.

<i>Sarcoscypha dudleyi</i> species of fungus

Sarcoscypha dudleyi, commonly known as the crimson cup or the scarlet cup, is a species of fungus in the Sarcoscyphaceae family of the Pezizales order. In addition to its main distribution in the central to eastern United States, the fungus has also been recorded once in Bulgaria. It has been frequently confused with Sarcoscypha coccinea, but can be distinguished from this and other related species in Sarcoscypha by differences in microscopic characteristics, such as the presence and number of oil droplets in the spores. The species Molliardiomyces dudleyi is an imperfect form of the fungus that lacks a sexually reproductive stage in its life cycle.

<i>Guepinia</i> genus of fungi

Guepinia is a genus of fungus in the Auriculariales order. It is a monotypic genus, containing the single species Guepinia helvelloides, commonly known as the apricot jelly. The fungus produces salmon-pink, ear-shaped, gelatinous fruit bodies that grow solitarily or in small tufted groups on soil, usually associated with buried rotting wood. The fruit bodies are 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in) tall and up to 17 cm (6.7 in) wide; the stalks are not well-differentiated from the cap. The fungus, although rubbery, is edible, and may be eaten raw with salads, pickled, or candied. It has a white spore deposit, and the oblong to ellipsoid spores measure 9–11 by 5–6 micrometers. The fungus is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, and has also been collected from South America.

<i>Tremella encephala</i> species of fungus

Tremella encephala is a species of fungus producing pink, brain-like, gelatinous basidiocarps. It is widespread in north temperate regions and is parasitic on another species of fungus, that grows on dead attached and recently fallen branches of conifers.

<i>Tremella foliacea</i> species of fungus

Tremella foliacea is a species of fungus producing brownish, frondose, gelatinous basidiocarps. It is widespread, particularly in north temperate regions, and is parasitic on other species of fungi, that grow on dead attached and recently fallen branches of broadleaf trees and conifers. Common names include leafy brain, jelly leaf, and brown witch's butter. The species is said to be edible, but is not much valued.

<i>Exidia recisa</i> species of fungus

Exidia recisa is a jelly fungus in the family Auriculariaceae. It is a common, wood-rotting species throughout the northern hemisphere, typically growing on dead attached twigs and branches of willow, more rarely other broadleaf trees.

<i>Myxarium nucleatum</i> species of fungus

Myxarium nucleatum is a jelly fungus in the family Hyaloriaceae. The sporocarps are watery white and gelatinous with small, white, mineral inclusions. It is a common, wood-rotting species in Europe and North America, typically growing on dead attached or fallen branches of broadleaf trees.


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