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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Auriculariales of the PNW
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to the Auriculariales


Jelly fungi are not brittle at all but gelatinous. It's very hard to tear one and they can't easily be crushed or broken. They are some of the most basal groups of  "basidio" fungi, implying this could have been one of the first types of mushroom fruiting bodies to evolve (some others are rusts and smuts). The two most basal classes of "basidios", the Tremellomycetes and Dacrymycetes are mostly jellies. The class Agaricomyces contains the "higher" order basidios. Many if not most species of the most basal orders of that class are jellies (these Auriculariales, but also the Sebacinales and Tremellodendropsidales). Even some Cantharellales, another somewhat basal order, can be jelly crusts.

Auriculariales can take many forms. Some are simple jelly drops on wood, or witch's butter (folded jellies on wood), like the two most basal classes, but in this higher order, they can also take some more advanced shapes, like a white jelly toothed mushroom, or a pinkish-orange funnel growing out of the ground instead of on wood (a more derived trait than the jellies in the other classes are capable of). Even the ones growing on wood are often white rotters, digesting the lignin, a more derived characteristic than the brown rotters in the Dacrymycetes.

All jellies are unusual by being one of a few groups of mushrooms called "heterobasidiomycetes", instead of "homobasidiomycetes" (although since "basidiomycete" changed to "basidiomycota" when "basidios" moved from a class to a phylum, I suppose we should be calling them "heterobasidiomycota"). Basidia usually all look the same, and the majority with that similar look are called "homobasidiomycetes" (homo=same). The few that are different are called "heterobasidiomycetes" (hetero=different). They can differ in two ways, one, by looking like a tuning fork (Dacrymycetes) or two, by being septate (often longitudinally so) but more importantly, with long sterigmata which are the stems that the spores grow on (all other jellies). They are jellies because their basidia are protected in a gel, and they need long sterigmata for them to reach out of the gel and grow the spores. Telling the more primitive looking Auriculariales apart from the Tremellomycetes is going to be difficult. The best way is to detect the parasitism of the Tremellomycetes or just learn the species.

abundant common uncommon rare - colour codes match my Pictorial Key and are my opinions and probably reflect my bias of living in W WA. Rare species may be locally common in certain places at certain times.



Auricularia PNW01 - the brown tree ear. A recent study showed that although we have been calling this species Auricularia auricula EU worldwide, North America has two distinct species, Auricularia americana and Auriculara angiospermarum. However, the study only appears to have sampled eastern North America, for out here on the west coast, we have a distinct unnamed species. A. angiospermarum has been found in Arizona. Auricularia PNW01 has been sequenced from BC and OR, the latter on a conifer.

Auricularia PNW01 © Jonathan Frank



Amber brown

Exidia PNW01 - starts out as very dark brownish black blobs and grows into amber-brown slightly folded masses.

Exidia repanda EU - a similar species, forming red-brown cushion shaped blobs on hardwoods. It has been reported from the PNW, but we have no local DNA yet to compare to the few EU sequences we have.

Exidia iteinos n.p. - similar willow species with large spores ~20.5 x 5.5u, never formally described by Klett.

Exidia recisa EU - another similar hardwood species, a more top shaped amber-brown jelly, with a more distinct difference between the top and bottom. A study by Wu showed that North America had the similar Exidia crenata NC, not E. recisa, but he only sampled eastern North America. Our one local sequence from OR turns out to be E. recisa. It is not uncommon for Europe and WNA to share a species and for ENA to have a distinct species.

Exidia crenata NC - as stated above, there has been debate as to whether or not we have this or the very similar E. recisa in the PNW. Since this is a NA species and E. recisa is an EU species, it was assumed we might have E. crenata. But our first sequenced collection proved to be E. recisa. We should get more collections to find out if the east coast species is here too.

Exidia umbrinella EU -said to be similar to but smaller than E. recisa, drying black. Found on hardwoods and conifers. No DNA from anywhere yet, but reported from the PNW. See below.

Exidia saccharina EU - a more brian-like to folded amber jelly from conifers. It has been reported from the PNW, but we have no local sequences to compare to the one EU sequence that Wu provided. See below.

Exidia pinicola n.p. - a conifer species. Klett thought that local collections of E. umbrinella and E. saccharina might instead involve an undescribed species, which he provisionally called E. pinicola. We need many more local collections and type sequences of all of them to sort this out.

Exidia PNW01 © Yi-Min Wang and Christian Schwarz,     Exidia recisa © John Jones Thompson (2 images)


Blackish - Exidia glandulosa group

Exidia glandulosa EU - a large top shaped brown jelly with a hairy black upper surface. We have a half dozen EU sequences, and it has been reported from the PNW. We need local collections.

Exidia glandulosa forma populi EU - the name given to a NC sequence that was 8 bp different in ITS. Klett thought that some local collections of E. recisa might properly be called this, and even provisionally raised it to species level (Exidia populi n.p.) in case it wasn't closely enough related to E. glandulosa to be a form of it. This needs to be sorted out.

Exidia nigricans  UK - a large black brain-like jelly mass. No DNA from anywhere, but local photographs match this description best.

unsequenced Exidia cf glandulosa © Noah Siegel,     Exidia cf nigricans © Michael Beug



Exidia cf candida EU - a whitish to orange-brown brain-like to folded mass. We do not have any local sequences yet to compare to our many EU sequences, but a sequence that is probably from ENA matches EU DNA.

Exidia zelleri NA - small, pale purplish-grey pustules that may coalesce into a larger mass and darken when drying out. No DNA from anywhere yet, but reported from the PNW.

unsequenced Exidia cf candida © Andrew Parker



Guepinia CA01 (Guepinia helvelloides EU misapplied) - apricot jelly. A pinkish orange spatula to funnel shaped jelly growing from the ground, an advanced shape and a habitat not seen in many jellies. It may have wrinkles down the outside, making it somewhat resemble a chanterelle. This species seems to be more southern of the two, found in CA and WA. EU sequences are a few % different in ITS.

Guepinia PNW01 (Guepinia helvelloides EU misapplied) - this seems to be the northern species, found in WA and northern BC (Haida Guai). I don't know how to tell them apart.

Guepinia CA01 © NAMA and the Field Museum of Natural History,     Guepinia PNW01 © Steve Ness



Myxarium PNW01 - the crystal jelly, a translucent white jelly mass with visible white crystal grains inside. Myxarium nucleatum EU is the name commonly used, and Myxarium atratum NY is thought to be a synonym, but a CA sequence in this genus suggests we have a west coast species that is not M. nucleatum. We need local sequenced collections to prove that our species is distinct.

unsequenced Myxarium PNW01 © Matthew Koons and Kendra Dedinsky



Pseudohydnum PNW01 - the toothed jelly, a whitish jelly growing from very rotten conifer wood or debris with an eccentric stem and spines under the cap. PNW01 appears to start out white, but can grow large and the cap can brown. It has been sequenced from AK, BC, WA, OR, AZ, and CA. It is the unnamed North American species in a complex that includes Pseudohydnum translucens from Asia and Pseudohydnum alienum from Europe, all of which only differ from each other by a few bp. Species in this group are said to be slightly smaller with paler caps than species in the P. gelatinosum complex, but that does not yet seem reliable. They do differ microscopically.

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum EU subsp. pusillum WA - this is the North American subspecies of the well known Pseudohydnum gelatinosum EU, whose type variety has not yet been found in North America. In 2023 our local subspecies was neotyped and is found across North America. It is not nearly as abundant as our other local species, PNW01. We have one photographed, sequenced collection from Vancouver BC. It differs microscopically from PNW01 (not in spore size, unfortunately, but in the width of some hyphae).

Pseudohydnum omnipavum ID - known only from the holotype sequence and some of the original collections, this species is said to resemble PNW01 microscopically. It may have fewer spines per mm, but we aren't sure yet how to differentiate it. We need modern, sequenced, photographed collections.

Pseudohydnum PNW01 © James Holkko, and  Terri Clements & Donna Fulton,     Pseudohydnum gelatinosum subsp. pusillum © Anita Poon


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