Jelly Baby

Leotia lubrica
Not recommended/not edible
Family

Leotiaceae

Description

Small mushroom with a gelatinous, yellowish stalk and head. Grows in groups on soil in mixed woods. July–October. Head convoluted, with a rolled-in margin; orangish yellow or ocher yellow with an olive tint; texture gelatinous, smooth. Stalk cylindrical, sometimes hollow; orangish yellow; can have tiny scales. Spore print transparent. Spores magnified are spindle-shaped.

Lookalikes: There are other species of jelly fungi, but the color of this one is unique.

Size

Head width: ½–1½ inches; stalk length: ¾–2 inches; stalk width: ¼–½ inch.

Habitat and conservation

Grows in groups on soil in mixed woods, often in moss. Jelly babies often grow in large clusters.

image of Jelly Baby Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Not edible.

Life cycle

Jelly babies exist most of the year as a network of cells (mycelium) penetrating the soil or rotting material. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, organic matter. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which produce spores that, once released, can begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.

Human connections

Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Like wildflowers, they have often been bestowed with poetic or fanciful names, reflecting the amusement they bring to us. Discovering them can bring out our innate capacity for wonder.

Ecosystem connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying organic materials. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials living things are made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.