A girl walks into a star… Just kidding. You’ll think its funny in a minute. Those slimy white lumps of jelly in the photo above have created a bit of a buzz in Countryside HQ this morning. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but had a vague recollection that I’d read something about them. Two minutes of googling and I was there – Star Jelly. (Get it now? Girl walks into a…).
So star jellies are a bit of a paranormal/cryptozoology phenomenon (or not!) as there is a lot of folklore and mystery around several types of clear-to-white jelly that are occasionally encountered by people. Theories abound: Meteoric debris (ergo ‘star’ jelly), the sperm of rutting Red Deer (I really hope not – I touched it!), slime mould, Nostoc (a type of blue green algae – cyanobacteria), slimy fungi, and even (my personal favourite) the undigested (and vomited) remains of amphibians that have been eaten by birds. What do you think?
It seems that the general consensus leans towards the froggy-bird-vomit theory, but I’m not really buying it. A bit more sensible searching through google images, and I think I have the culprit: Crystal Brain Fungus!!! (Yes, the truth can be almost stranger than fiction!) Not as one would think, a crab-core girl band, but an actual type of actual fungus!
Exidia nucleata is one of the types of Crystal Brain Fungus that is frequently encountered in winter, on wet, decaying wood (I found this today in a drenched Merrions Wood, on a dead, fallen tree, so it fits the profile!). Perhaps not as exciting as creatures from space deposited during a meteor shower, its still pretty cool. And its not the only strange blob of jelly I’ve had to have identified in Walsall!
In 2011 we encountered some very strange things whilst doing a borough-wide amphibian survey – that soon came to be known as ‘Green Jelly Blobs’. The GJBs, which curiously almost melted in the hand, were eventually identified as Nostoc (cyanobacteria). We only found them at one site, Oily Goughs in Rough Wood Chase, but they remain one of my favourite ‘finds’ of 2011.
I have had the photos of today’s white jelly blobs identified as being Crystal Brain Fungi, but am sending away a sample for confirmation, and will report back on results!