Wood ears are distinctive mushrooms with a jelly-like texture–but did you know there are quite a few different mushrooms that fit that description? In fact, some of them are quite difficult to tell apart from wood ears. Want to find out more? In this article, we’ll talk about several different types of mushrooms that look like wood ears.
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Mushrooms That Look Like Wood Ears
1. Cloud Ear Mushrooms
Cloud ear mushrooms are closely related to wood ears. Both are species within the Auricularia genus.
Cloud ears are sometimes called black fungus. They are commonly cultivated for food but also grow in the wild in Australia, Africa, Asia, and South America.
These mushrooms are extremely similar to wood ears: both types of mushrooms have a flexible, gelatinous texture and may feel silky or velvety when you touch them. Both grow on dead or decaying wood and have a ruffly, irregular, cup- or ear-shaped appearance.
Both types of mushrooms can also be light to dark brown in color.
The main difference between the two is their size and cooked texture. Cloud ears are typically smaller than wood ears, and they tend to be softer and more tender when cooked.
That said, both types of mushrooms are edible and can generally be exchanged for each other in your favorite recipes.
2. Amber Jelly Roll Mushrooms
This is another jelly mushroom that is in the same family as the wood ear, though it is not as closely related as the cloud ear above.
Amber jelly roll mushrooms can be found throughout much of Asia, Europe, and North America.
Upon first glance, it is easy to confuse these mushrooms with wood ears. Both mushrooms grow on dead or decaying wood, and both are generally dark in color with a gelatinous texture.
However, amber jelly rolls are typically lighter than wood ears, taking on an amber to dark orange color. They are also much smaller than wood ears, being only about an inch in diameter in most cases.
What’s more, these mushrooms have a more inverted-cup shape, as opposed to the ruffly ear-shaped appearance of wood ears.
Amber jelly rolls tend to fruit during the winter, like wood ears. Both species are edible.
Check out this video to learn more about how to tell these two mushrooms apart:
3. Cup Fungi
Cup fungi are not a single species but rather a family of mushrooms. There are about 230 individual species of cup mushroom, and they are not closely related to wood ears.
Cup fungi vary widely in appearance and habitat, but a few species look similar to wood ear mushrooms. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, wood ears are often confused for being a type of cup fungus.
Even if they are similar in color, there are ways to tell cup fungi apart from wood ears.
For one thing, as the name suggests, cup fungi tend to grow in cup shapes. Wood ears look more like ears, though they can grow into many irregular, wrinkled shapes.
What’s more, cup fungi tend to have a more brittle, breakable texture. Wood ears are more rubbery or jelly-like, making them flexible and harder to damage.
Many cup mushrooms are edible, though if you’re not sure of the identity of your mushroom, you should always have it checked by a professional mycologist or more experienced forager.
4. Leafy Brain Mushrooms
These unique looking jelly mushrooms are not closely related to wood ear mushrooms, but they can sometimes be confused with wood ears. They are found in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia.
Leafy brains, also called brown witch’s butter, primarily grow on dead and decaying conifer wood–typically fallen branches. They have a slimy, ruffly, brain-like appearance.
Leafy brains are light to dark brown in color, but may also appear pinkish or amber-colored. They have also been described as being seaweed-like due to the frond-like structure of their growth.
The easiest way to tell leafy brains apart from wood ears is their growth structure. Leafy brains will appear more brain-like, whereas wood ears look more like ears.
Leafy brain mushrooms are edible but do not have any taste.
5. Snow Ear Mushrooms
Snow ear mushrooms are not closely related to wood ears, and they are easy to tell apart if you know what you are looking for. These mushrooms grow throughout the world, especially in tropical areas.
Snow ears have a ruffly, jelly-like appearance. They are quite attractive in appearance.
The main thing that sets them apart from wood ears is their color. Snow ears are a transparent white to silver in color, whereas wood ears are brown.
Owing to their unique color, snow ears have many common names: white cloud ears, snow fungus, and silver ear fungus, to name a few.
Like wood ears, snow ears grow on dead wood. They are parasitic and aggressive in nature despite their pristine appearance.
These mushrooms are both edible and medicinal. They are tasteless on their own but are prized for their texture and ability to absorb other flavors.
There are a number of mushroom species that look similar to wood ears. These include cloud ears, amber jelly rolls, and leafy brain mushrooms.