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  • katemacquarrie22

Cat's-tongue

As a professional botanist, I don’t know my mushrooms well, but I am working to learn more.  This fall, I’m sharing some easily identified, beginner-level species so you can learn too!  Today’s fungus is the most well-named one I’ve met so far: this is Cat’s-tongue (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum).


Cat's-tongue fungus (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum) on PEI.

If you look closely at the top of this mushroom, you’ll see it looks just as rough as its feline namesake.  Looks can be deceiving though. Cat’s-tongue is one of the jelly fungi with a texture much like a gummy bear and not at all like sandpaper.  Under the cap are tiny teeth that would remind you of the Hedgehogs I profiled here: https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/hedgehogs .


But unlike Hedgehogs, Cat’s-tongue teeth are soft and pliable rather than spiky and brittle. That’s where this species gets its scientific name: ‘Pseudohydnum’ means false hedgehog, and ‘gelatinosum’ means jelly-like.  So, both the common and scientific names are perfect descriptors. (It’s also known as Toothed Jelly Fungus, but I like Cat’s-tongue much better).

 

Cat’s-tongue can be found growing on dead softwood in late summer and fall. This is one of the white-rot fungi, digesting lignin – a compound that gives plant cells their rigidity and is especially important in woody species.  White rot fungi leave behind light-coloured, shredded-looking wood that is mostly cellulose (a carbohydrate). In breaking down lignin, white rot fungi play a critical role in recycling carbon from trees and making it available to other plants and animals.  By comparison, brown rot fungi digest cellulose, leaving behind dark-coloured, blocky chunks of wood that’s mostly lignin.  This lignin plays an important part in the structure and moisture-holding ability of forest soils.  If you enjoy a walk in the woods, thank fungi!  Without them, we’d be buried under a mountain of undecayed dead wood (and animals) on top of near-sterile soil.

 

Cat’s-tongue fungi are edible, though I didn’t find enough to give them a try.  These are small mushrooms that usually grow scattered or in small groups, and it can be hard to find the volume to make a taste-test worthwhile.  Its jelly-like texture and bland flavour keep it from being considered a choice edible, but Cat’s-tongue can be made into mushroom candy. To do this, soak your fungi for a day or so in a simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in one part water), then roll in sugar and air dry or dehydrate until they’re the consistency you want.  Homemade, natural gummy tongues!

 

Cat’s-tongue has no close look-alikes and so I consider it a good beginner-level species. Keep your eye open for it while exploring PEI untamed!

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