Good afternoon friends,
This week's mushroom is Dacryopinax spathularia, commonly known as the fan-shaped jelly fungus. This mushroom was found on 8/24/2021 growing out of a rustic bench - which to my knowledge is made from black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) - in the ramble. After receiving some helpful feedback, I'm going to try break up this newsletter into a few sections to make it more digestible.
D. spathularia is saprobic (consumes dead organic material) on dead wood. It fruits mid-summer through mid-fall and is found on all six major continents. It appears to originally be endemic (native) to eastern Asia, specifically French Guiana, but now is a cosmopolitan species found all over the world. The fruiting bodies are orange and only a couple of centimeters tall. I returned today to observe them and it was interesting to see how they've aged (as seen in the somewhat in focus fourth picture). A lot of color had receded, and you may notice the necks of a few are white and tomentose (hairy) which, from my understanding, are the white spores hanging on to the mature fruiting body.
While I was combing iNaturalist looking at other findings of D. spathularia in Central Park I noticed that all eight observations of the species were on human manipulated wood (i.e. benches, railings, or fences). Black locust is the hardwood of choice used to construct these wooden elements throughout the park and is specifically chosen for its durability and rot resistance. It seems like D. spathularia is one of a few fungi that are adept at breaking down dead locust cell walls.
The latin "Dacryopinax" can roughly be translated to "tear-like" (as in crying tears), and "spathul" translates to "little spade", so both the genus (Dacryopinax) and species (Spathularia) refer to the unique shape of this friendly little mushroom.
Lastly, like many jelly fungi, it is edible if you're so inclined. As always, consult texts and other knowledgeable people to get multiple confirmations on your identification before you consume any foraged mushroom.
I stumbled across a fascinating article (from Beverage Industry of all places - Reference 3) that went on a deep dive about the fungus and how it possesses glycolipids - in this case basically antimicrobial compounds - that are being used as a natural preservative in bottled beverages. The same glycolipids D. spathularia uses to dissuade other fungi and microorganisms from trying to consume the wood it is feeding on are now being used to manufacture the FDA approved product Nagardo - available for commercial use as of January 2019. I encourage you to check out the article for yourself.
We have a lot of new readers this week from the New York Mycological Society and beyond, so if you notice anything awry or have any suggestions for this Monday missive, please let me know.