DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A fruiting body of the Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae, on a dead branch of sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus.The picture shows a small cup-shaped gelatinous fruiting body about 2cm in diameter. At this young stage, it bears little resemblance to an ear; the outer surface is mealy, and the inside of the cup is folded with a smooth surface. The "ear" in this picture is hydrated and rubbery; during dry periods, it is able to persist in a dehydrated state for months, then resume its gelatinous state, grow, and release spores repeatedly after periods of rain. The specific name refers to Judas; the fungus is most commonly found on elder, Sambucus nigra, the tree from which Judas is said to have hanged himself. A. auricula-judae is a member of the heterobasidiomycetes, or "jelly fungi". The fungus is edible if well cooked, but has little merit as a foodstuff.
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