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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Dacrymycetes (Tuning Fork Jellies) of the PNW
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to the Dacrymycetes


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 (the Auriculariales, Sebacinales and Tremellodendropsidales). Even some Cantharellales, another somewhat basal order, are jelly crusts.

Dacrymycetes usually take the form of jelly drops on wood or on a host, or of witch's butter (folded jellies on wood), although Calocera contains club and coral jellies. While yellow-orange is a somewhat common colour in the Tremellomycetes, almost every fruiting body in this class is yellow-orange. Similar looking jellies included the Tremellomycetes, which are mostly parasites, and some of the Auriculariales, but Dacrymycetes are easily told apart from both under a microscope (see the next paragraph), at least in the sexual stage. Asexual reproduction is common in this class too. Those spores look very different than the sexual spores and the fruiting body may even look different in different stages.

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. The tuning fork basidia are basically two long sterigmata, with one spore on each tine of the fork.

The entire class is well covered in this excellent paper by Zamora et. al: Phylogeny and character evolution in the Dacrymycetes.

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.

Dacrymyces s.l.

Genetics has split this genus up so it is difficult to know the genus of one of the jellies on this page by sight. The splitting is not yet done.

Calocera, Dacryopinax elegans, Dacryopinax spathularia, Guepiniopsis, and Ditiola must either be moved into Dacrymyces, or Dacrymyces will have to be split into a half dozen or so new genera and Dacryopinax will have to be split as explained. This affects other regions of the world more than it affects the PNW (we might get 3 new genera). It all depends if Zamora clade D8 gets split or held together as one genus.


Dacrymyces stillatus EU - the asexual stage are small (~1 mm), bright orange dots on conifers or structural wood that are easily squashed, unlike the other jellies on this page. The sexual stage, rarely reported, are translucent yellow blobs that are slightly larger and folded, and can't easily be squashed. If you're lucky, you may see both on the same piece of wood. We have some EU type area sequences, but no local sequences yet to compare.

unsequenced Dacrymyces stillatus asexual and sexual stages © Richard Morrison and Yves Deneyer

'Dacrymcyes' minor NY - similar to the asexual stage of D. stillatus - small, yellow-orange dots on wood with a greenish tinge when young (but not as easily squashed). Similar to Cerinomyces tortus. See also HeterotextusD7 minutus for small dots that are not greenish when young. This may actually be in Dacrymyces, or may need splitting, depending on which sequence you believe and how much you like to split. We need reliable sequences from both coasts.

'Dacrymyces' aquaticus BC - small (~1 mm) orange dots on the underside of very wet or floating wood. We have no DNA and no idea of the correct genus yet.

DacrymycesD1 ovisporus EU - small (a few mm) convoluted brain-like orange blobs on conifer wood. Zamora provides EU sequences, but we have no local DNA to compare.

DacrymycesD1 variisporus WA -small (a few mm) simpler orange blobs on various wood. Zamora provides Asian sequences purporting to be of this species, but we need local sequences of this local species to know for sure what it is.

DacrymycesD1 chrysocomus EU - small (a few mm) cup-shaped orange blobs on conifers. Zamora provides EU type area sequences, but we need local collections to compare.

unsequenced DacrymycesD1 ovisporus and DacrymycesD1 variisporus © A and O Ceska,     unsequenced DacrymycesD1 chrysocomus © Danny Miller

DacrymycesD8-2 chrysospermus New England - a large, folded mass of orange jelly. There may be a white point of attachment at the wood, unlike the similar witch's butter (Tremella mesenterica). We seem to have the real species here, with sequences closely matching VA, TN and PQ sequences. We mostly find this species on hardwood, which is unusual, since although it is described from both conifer and hardwood, we think of it in the PNW as a conifer species. We need more collections to find out.

DacrymycesD8-2 'chrysospermus CA01' - this is a complex of lookalike species worldwide, and we do have a second species in the complex, much more common than the real thing, here I think usually found on conifers, but also sequenced from hardwoods. More collections are needed to figure out how to differentiate our two species.

DacrymycesD8-3 capitatus PN - small (a few mm) translucent yellow blobs with a very tiny stem, if you look closely. Usually on hardwoods. This probably needs a new genus, if the further splitting happens. There are conflicting sequences with this name, and none from the ENA type area. We also need local collections.

DacrymycesD8-2 chrysospermus © Yi-Min Wang,     DacrymycesD8-2 'chrysospermus CA01' © Eric Jain


Assorted small genera of distinctive jellies

Cerinomyces tortus EU - small (~1 mm) yellow-amber blobs with a greenish tinge when young, usually on conifers, similar to 'Dacrymyces' minor. We have the type sequence, but no local sequences to compare yet.

Dacryonaema rufum EU - tiny (<1 mm) red-brown blobs that expend to cones and then cylinders, eventually forming somewhat of a pruinose cap on the cylinder. We have a number of EU type area sequences, but no local sequences yet to compare.

DacryopinaxD8-2 spathularia NC -larger (>1 cm tall), spatula shaped jellies with a stem and a head on either side of the top of the stem. This species is not near the type species of the genus, D. elegans. If clade D8 is split, D. spathularia needs to be moved from Dacryopinax to a new genus I am calling DacryopinaxD8-2 (the 2nd clade of Dacryopinax in Zamora clade D8). We have ENA type area sequences, but no local DNA to compare yet.

Femsjonia peziziformis EU - small yellow blobs/discs (a few mm) but with a white underside and rim, on hardwoods. We need to check if F. luteoalba is an older synonym. Some sequences suggest it is. We have EU sequences but no local sequences yet to compare.

Femsjonia uniseptata Japan (=Dacrymyces corticioides NJ) - similar to Femsjonia peziziformis, but with smaller spores. One OR sequence matches the Japanese holotype sequence as well as ENA type area sequences of D. corticioides, and was confirmed by Zamora. It remains to be proven if Femsjonia peziziformis is also here. This needs renaming to Femsjonia corticioides since D. corticioides is the older name but the wrong genus.

'Cerinomyces' canadensis ON - needs moving to Femsjonia. A resupinate thick orange fungus that is only somewhat gelatinous and consists of irregularly shaped pieces. We have a sequence from Idaho that Zamora has identified as this species.

Ditiola radicata EU - small yellow jellies (<1 cm high) with a distinct stem and convex cap when mature. Young jellies are tubes covered with a white veil. We have EU type area sequences, but no local DNA to compare yet.

Guepiniopsis buccina EU - orange jelly up to 1cm tall with a tall stem and saucer or cup shaped head, with striations down the stem. We still need to double check that it is in same genus as the type species, G. torta, and that it doesn't need to be moved to a different genus. This is one of the few species on this page where we have EU type area DNA and matching local DNA to show that we do indeed have this species as reported.

'Ditiola' haasii EU - one OR collection of small translucent white cushions with a flattened top, matching type area sequences provided by Zamora. I have 60% support for this being sister to Femsjonia, but it remains to be seen if it needs it needs moving to Femsjonia or its own new genus. It definitely isn't really a Ditiola, though, as the type species D. radicata is quite distant in the tree.

unsequenced DacryopinaxD8-2 spathularia © John Plischke,     Femsjonia uniseptata © Leah Bendlin


unsequenced Ditiola radicata © Thomas Læssøe &mycokey.com,     Guepiniopsis buccina © Yi-Min Wang and Sharon Squazzo,     'Ditiola' haasii © Leah Bendlin


HeterotextusD7 minutus NC - currently named Guepiniopsis minutus. It is another tiny (~1 mm) orange blob, not greenish when young. This is the only species in the genus that is tiny, the rest are larger, more prominent "gumdrops". Our species of Heterotextus do not appear to be in the same clade as the type species of the genus, H. flavus (although we need a type sequence of that to prove it), so they will probably need to be moved to a new genus, whatever they end up calling Zamora genus D7. We do not have type area DNA yet, nor local DNA to compare to.

HeterotextusD7 alpinus CO - ~1 cm orange gumdrops (top-shaped, tapering to a point of attachment), at high elevations on conifers near snowmelt. We have Colorado DNA that probably represents this, but no matching local sequences yet.

HeterotextusD7 luteus AK & BC - very similar, perhaps a bit smaller at lower elevations. We have local I don't know for certain if it's in the true genus Heterotextus or in HeterotextusD7 like our other species, but I assume HeterotextusD7. We need sequences.

HeterotextusD7 PNW02 - large orange top shaped drops like H. luteus, but with much smaller spores better matching D. aquaticus, and found on wet wood. The sequence was of poor quality, so we need more collections before making any definite conclusions about this species.

HeterotextusD7 PNW01 - an erect stubby orange club with a translucent whitish stem and fat head. Sequenced from AK and WA.

HeterotextusD7 alpinus (from Colorado) © iNaturalist user ramirami,     HeterotextusD7 PNW02 © Michael Beug,     HeterotextusD7 PNW01 © Yi-Min Wang


Calocera cornea EU - orange jelly clubs on hardwoods up to 2cm high, usually simple clubs, rarely branched. Our local sequences match many EU type area sequences. If Dacrymyces is not split as mentioned above, Calocera would have to be absorbed into Dacrymyces.

Calocera 'cornea OH01' - one OR sequence of a collection on alder matches ENA and Japan ITS DNA, but not EU type area DNA. I don't know how to recognize it.

Calocera 'viscosa CA01' - orange jelly coral on conifers, up to 10 cm hight. Our species is distinct from the EU species, and one local sequence is 5 bp different from our others.

Calocera cornea © Lauren Ré,     Calocera 'cornea OH01' © Noah Siegel,     Calocera 'viscosa CA01' © Yi-Min Wang


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