Possibly not, because it may not be actual witches’ butter.
I’d meant to get down to Juanita Bay, where I had my first encounter with witches’ butter, but that didn’t quite happen. Instead, I ended up at that bit of North Creek I haven’t fully explored. I wasn’t expecting any encounters with fabulous fungi. But there was a causeway out to an island, which may not be there if the pond fills up full, so I tramped over for a look and got smacked in the eye by brilliant orange.
It was occupying a snag beside the causeway. Most of us tend to think of snags as old dead things that just haven’t fallen down yet, but this thing was full of life. You should be noticing some Trametes versicolor on there, growing happily alongside the possible-but-not-probable witches’ butter. And then there’s this:
I’m not sure if that irregular brown patchy stuff is turkey tail fungus that didn’t get the memo about looking like an actual turkey’s tail, or if it’s something else altogether. Doesn’t matter – it’s alive. So is the lichen and moss that’s colonized. And then there’s the fuzzy stuff, which was also growing happily on a ginormous tree elsewhere in the park. I’ll show you it later. Right now, we’re busy with butter. Or not.
See, the reason I’m not convinced it’s witches’ butter is because it’s not all shiny and slick. There’s a close cousin of witches’ butter, Tremella aurantia, also known as golden ear, and it’s matte. So this is possibly that. Which means no self-respecting witch would ever spread this on her toast. Might use it as a centerpiece on the breakfast table, though.
Some of these may have medical applications, you know. Witches’ butter alone has a laundry list of potential effects, “including immunostimulatory, protecting against radiation, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolemic, hepatoprotective, and antiallergic effects.” That’s a lot for a little fungus. And who knows if its cousin, which this might be, might do more? We can’t just walk away going, “Eew, fungus!” even if we don’t happen to think it’s pretty. It could be important to us someday.
I think it’s beautiful, though. Look at it adding a splash of color to a dreary scene.
Like biological flames, that. Lovely.