Wood Ear

Botanical Name: Auricularia spp.

Other Common Names: Tree Ear, Jelly Ear

Brief Description and Notes: These mushrooms, indeed, tend to look like ears. They are wrinkly and irregularly shaped with thin and rubbery flesh. They can be found Spring through Fall, but are least common in summer. Compare to Pachyella, Tremella, and Exidia species to be sure you have the right mushroom. Wood Ear is thin at the edges, doesn’t compress easily when squeezed, can fold easily, and may have a stub-like point of connection to the wood. If dried out it can appear more black than its typical reddish-brown or grayish-tan. 

Where To Look For It: Dead and dying trees (both coniferous and deciduous) as well as logs and branches

Ecological Value & Roles: These are decomposer mushrooms (saprobes)–they feed on decaying wood and help break it down. 

Edibility and Other Human Use: Commonly found in Asian markets; they don’t have a bold flavor but have a pleasant crunchy texture. There are many ways to use, but maybe the most popular is to slice thinly, dry out, and add to soups. 

Sources

Mushrooms of the Northeast, Teresa Marrone and Walt Sturgeon. 2016, Adventure Publications.