Branching, whitish, leathery, coral-like jelly fungus. Grows on the ground in deciduous or mixed woods. May–November. Fruiting body a coral-like cluster of vertical branches that are often flattened or fused; whitish; texture tough but gelatinous. Spore print white. Spores magnified are sausage-shaped, smooth.
Lookalikes: This species could be confused with many true coral mushrooms. However, true coral fungi are brittle and break easily, while the jellied false coral is tough, not brittle.
Fruiting body width: 2–6 inches; height: 1–4 inches.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows singly or scattered on the ground in deciduous or mixed woods. Slow-growing, it starts out in spring as irregular lumps on the forest floor. The jellied false coral is tough and leathery and can persist throughout the summer and fall. Late in the season, it can become dirty from soil splashing onto it or greenish from algae. Although it grows in a coral-like form, it is technically a jelly fungus and more closely related to species like wood ear and witches' butter.
Not edible. Although the jellied false coral can be safely eaten, its taste just isn’t worth the effort!
This species exists most of the time as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) in the soil, digesting and decomposing organic particles. It might also be mycorrhizal, connected to tree roots in a symbiotic relationship. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the branching fruiting body that emerges from the ground. Spores are produced in the branches and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.
Many inedible fungi have important roles in nature, benefiting humans indirectly by keeping forests productive and healthy. They each also possess a strange beauty in color and form that we can enjoy.
Fungi and their fruiting bodies, mushrooms, are part of our natural environment. Their importance in forest ecosystems is monumental. Besides nourishing forest trees through symbiosis, they are also the wood rotters of the natural world, recycling nutrients back into the soil.
Mushrooms are a lot like plants, but they lack chlorophyll and have to take nutrients from other materials. Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are in a different kingdom — the fungi. Fungi include the familiar mushroom-forming species, plus the yeasts, molds, smuts, and rusts.
Always be cautious when eating edible mushrooms. Be absolutely sure of the ID, and only eat a small amount the first time you try it to avoid a reaction..