The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 11, 2008


Amber Jelly Roll


The Amber Jelly Roll (Photo by Kay Fairweather)

If you have been in your yard cleaning up the sticks and branches that fell in the winter, chances are good that you will have had a close encounter of the gelatinous kind with the Amber Jelly Roll. It is a fungus that grows on dead and decaying wood of deciduous trees, and after a spell of wet weather the fruiting body swells to its full flabby and glistening glory. If you were not wearing gloves and you grabbed a branch that was hosting this fungus, you might have been startled to discover something very unbranchlike in your hand. In dry weather, it shrivels into a dry black skin but will reconstitute itself in the next rain.

Name. The Amber Jelly Roll has the scientific inomial Exidia recisa. Exidia comes from the root exid- meaning staining, exuding or perspiring and the fruiting bodies of all Exidia species do appear to be oozing out of cracks in the bark. Recisa comes from recis- meaning cut off or cut back and I can’t find (or figure out) what aspect of the fungus it describes.

When and where seen. The Amber Jelly Roll can be found in probably all the wooded areas of town. It is very common but not always easy to spot. You are more likely to find it on fallen twigs and branches than on those still attached. You can find it on warmish wet days throughout the winter but spring clean-up is the time when you might unexpectedly find yourself with a handful.

Distinguishing characteristics. Amber Jelly Roll, when not dry, forms irregular lumps of jelly with a thin skin. The lumps vary a lot in size but are typically about an inch wide and less than an inch high. They are often clustered so there might be four or more inches of the branch with contiguous blobs. When backlit by the sun you can see why it’s called amber but it often appears to be cinnamon brown or even purplish-brown. It is sometime wrinkled like a large raisin.

Spores. Spore color, shape, and size come in very handy in identifying fungi. The Amber Jelly Roll has white spores. This is easily determined by putting a piece (even still attached to its stick) on a sheet of newsprint and covering it with a bowl to prevent air currents from carrying the spores away. I let it drop its spores onto a microscope slide instead of onto newspaper. After a few hours the slide had a white film on it. Under the microscope at 1000x, I could see that the individual spores were smooth, sausage-shaped and about 11 to 14 microns long – exactly as they should be.

Poetry. April is National Poetry Month and I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion in the car on Sunday. When I came in the house, I had two lines still in my head – one from a Simon and Garfunkel song, “April Come She Will” and the other from a Ron Padgett poem. Together they made a new poem for the Amber Jelly Roll:

Ripe and swell with rain,
It’s enough to make me happy.

References. Mushrooms of North America by Alan Bessette, Arleen Bessette, David Fischer; Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora.

Woodcocks. On April 3, Frank Rigg saw a woodcock in his yard at 262 South Street.  “A dog running around a field adjacent to our property flushed it out of an overgrown area along the stone wall boundary between our property and the field. It flew about ten feet up in the air and then landed on our side, near our birdfeeders. It then rocked back and forth in the leaves accumulated along the wall for quite a while. Its plumage provided such wonderful camouflage that you could barely see it with the naked eye.”

Anyone wanting to see and hear woodcocks can join the Brownriggs at Foss Farm tomorrow evening (April 12, 7:30 p.m. or same time Sunday if raining on Saturday) on a walk to observe (hopefully) the male mating display. Bring binoculars if you have them.∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito