Spectacular Witches Butter enhances the beauty of the rainforest, with its bright colour attracting the appropriate insects to traffic spores in a general absence of wind. We were familiar with the White Jelly Fungus or Silver Ear (Tremella fuciformis), but this magnificent variation is delightfully new to us. Tremella mesenterica appears to be the closest fit, with similar character and variable shades of yellow to orange coloration.
The yellow version was called ‘witches butter’ in olden times in Europe, because it can unexpectedly appear first thing in the morning as a message that warns the occupants of the house that a witch has cast a spell on the house and its residents. To break the spell, occupants are advised to jab the jelly many times with a sharp object like a pin, needle or knife. This will release the bad spirits and keep your home safe.
Tremella mesenterica has a wide distribution across most continents, having been recorded from Europe, North, Central, and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Fruit bodies are formed during wet periods throughout the year. This orange floral fungus grows parasitically on the mycelium of another fungi, a wood-rotting corticioid fungi. Occasionally, T. mesenterica and its host fungus can be found fruiting together.
Laboratory tests of a number of biological activities associated with a substance found in T. mesenterica indicate that it is immunostimulatory, protective against radiation, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and protective of liver function. In China, many patents have been taken out and the potential of these fungi as pharmaceuticals of the future is enormous.
The Daintree Rainforest is largely unexplored in its capacity to contribute to medicine and its value to humankind makes it one of the most important rainforests on the planet and probably one of the least-known and least documented.