Bulgaria inquinans

Liquorice on a log – The Black Bulgar

For one reason or another I didn’t get the chance to get out much over winter, but a recent visit to some nearby woodland turned up these little black beauties.

As they were well camouflaged, I nearly walked by this mass of Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans) on a fallen trunk (possibly Ash). There were many dozens of these small black jelly-like buttons scattered across the bark. They genuinely look and feel like a typical jelly fungus, but they’re actually not jelly fungi at all – scientifically speaking, as they are in the class/division of Ascomycetes, instead of the real ‘Jelly fungi’ (heterobasidiomycetes) which are in the division Basidiomycetes. So there you go – lesson over!

They grow in large clusters on deciduous fallen/felled trunks and branches, especially oak, beech and less often, on ash. But with the recent Ash Dieback disease and many felled trees as a result, they may well become more of a common sight.

When young, the margin is tightly enrolled, giving the fruiting body a tiny cup like appearance with a brown/dark drown outer surface which has a rough, scurfy texture. As they mature they spread out flat exposing their smooth ‘spore bearing’ top side in a distinctive disc shape. The ‘gummie bear’ flesh inside is dark ochre-brown which is more rubbery and gelatinous in damp conditions. It becomes much tougher as it begins to dry out.

Rubbery or tough – it doesn’t really mater because this isn’t a fungus for the foragers list. However, in Northeastern China it is considered a delicacy. After careful preparation I believe it’s fine to eat – but quite poisonous otherwise. Phytochromes (photoreceptors in fruiting body pigment) can cause serious food-sensitised solar dermatitis – which sounds rather uncomfortable. I think I’ll give it a miss!

Black Bulgar Fungus

Top: Flat disc shapes of the mature fruiting bodies. Bottom left: Younger cup like examples with a scurfy brown exterior. Due to the damp conditions, this surface appears much darker.

QUICK ID TABLE: Black Bulgar Bulgaria inquinans

FRUITING BODY

Approx 1-4cm across. Jelly-like, rubbery texture. Top fertile surface is smooth, Underside scurfy brown/dark brown. Margin enrolled when young, expanding to a flat disc shape.

STEM

N/A – Minimal/small stump.

SPORE PRINT
Spore Print: Dark brown/blackish (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

On fallen/felled oaks, Beech, Sweet Chestnut and Ash. September to March

LOOKALIKES

Witches’ Butter (Exidia glandulosa)

EDIBILITY

Inedible. Poisonous if not prepared properly.

6 replies
  1. John Batten
    John Batten says:

    Hi John

    I have never seen these before, a first for me.
    After seeing the preparation for making them edible, I think I’ll give them a miss, if I find any.
    Great site and information, keep it up John.

    Kind regards

    Reply
  2. John holland
    John holland says:

    This is a bit off-topic, but I recently found a terrific haul of morels in a neighbours bark-chip desert of a garden. The only times I’ve ever found morels, it’s been on similar artificial environments.
    They seem to have evolved, like house sparrows, to live almost exclusively alongside humans. Do you ever find morels now in ‘the wild’, and if so, where?

    Reply
  3. J C Harris
    J C Harris says:

    Hi John
    It’s the time of year for Morels – I have only found Black Morels in Garden Woodchip situations (see my post ‘Wonders in the Woodchip’), I don’t know where they grow wild – not in my neck of the woods anyway. The other less palatable Semifree Morels I find quite often in damp woodland. Sorry I couldn’t be more help – other than to say, keep a look out wherever there’s woodchip about! The mycelium hides within and then transported far and wide, so it is becoming more of an urban edible mushroom.

    Reply
  4. Wood Wanderer
    Wood Wanderer says:

    Having just found my very first Black Bulgar – Bulgaria inquinans despite my 10+ years of fungi hunting … I was interested to read your blog. I must say I was a little surprised to see that they are not exactly black in colour but have a brownish exterior with a dark green inner surface when young.

    Reply

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