Wood Ear - Auricularia-auricula judae

Main features

  • Looks like a human ear

  • Found predominantly on elder, but also beech, ash, sycamore and other broadleaf trees

  • Shrivels up and darkens to almost black when dry

  • Rehydrates when wet

  • Points its "cup" towards the ground

  • Cartilaginous texture

  • Found all year round

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Wood Ear - Auricularia-auricula judae

Edible mushroom - novice

Other common names: Jelly Ear

 

Scientific name meaning: Both parts of the double-barrelled genus name, Auricularia and auricula, are derived from the Latin word for "ear". Judae is possibly in reference to Judas Iscariot , the disciple who betrayed Jesus in the Christian Bible.

This is because of folklore suggesting Judas hung himself on an elder after betraying Jesus. The "ears" are supposed to be a sign of his tormented spirit being trapped in the tree. However, the elder is a very weak tree and most specimens are unlikely to support the weight of a human adult

Season All year

Habitat - where will I find it? Wood Ear is a saprobic (living on dead or dying matter) on wood. However, it can sometimes be found living parasitically on living trees.

Its favourite tree is elder, but it can also be found on beech, ask, sycamore and other broadleaf species.

It is found in temperate and sub-tropical zones globally

Description - what does it look like? Wood Ear is a tan-brown fungus, and looks and feels very much like a human ear.

Its "cup" hangs down towards the ground. In dry weather, it shrivels up to a tiny amount of its hydrated size and looks almost black. It rehydrates after rain or soaking in liquid 

Spore colour: White

Possible lookalikes Other cup fungus could be confused with Jelly or Wood Ear. However, it always has its “cup” hanging down and grows from wood. Other cup fungus it may be confused with have an upright cup

Use as a food Wood Ear’s ability to dehydrate and rehydrate means it is excellent for long-term storage. When rehydrated in strong flavoured sauces or liquids, and will absorb those flavours. Its texture lends itself towards oriental cuisine, in which its relatives are often used.

It should not be fired as it explodes!

It can also be used as a sweet dish by soaking in strong fruit juice or liqueur, then covering in chocolate. It makes an interesting talking point

Use in herbal medicine There is an acidic polysaccharide (containing mannose, glucose, glucuronic acid and xylose) in Wood Ear. This polysaccharide has been found to have some effect on reducing blood coagulation. Research is continuing into its use as an antithrombotic.

In addition, it has also been used to treat heart disease, constipation, post-partum haemorrhoids, inflammation, and gall, kidney and bladder stones. 

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Because of its effect on blood coagulation, Wood ear should be avoided by those with haemophilia or taking blood thinners

Importance to other species It is unclear if any species rely on Wood Ear as a source of food. It is, however, usually maggot free

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!