Home
The Complete Guide to Snow Mushrooms
Identification

The Complete Guide to Snow Mushrooms

Julian Selemin
Julian Selemin
December 20, 2023
7 min

Snow mushrooms are some of the most unique-looking fungi in the world. They’re sure to catch the eye of even the most experienced mushroom lover with their translucid, jelly-like bulbs.

Yet, not many people know that these mushrooms have been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. With incredible skin and neuro-protecting properties, snow fungi are one of the best choices you can add to your diet. Here’s everything you need to know.

What are snow mushrooms?

The snow mushroom, scientifically known as Tremella fuciformis, is a jelly fungus present in tropical and subtropical climates. It features a unique gelatinous, transparent look that distinguishes it from other fungi growing on hardwoods. Snow mushrooms are also known as:

  • Snow fungus mushroom
  • Silver ear mushroom
  • Tremella mushroom
  • White jelly mushroom
  • White fungus or white mushroom (not to be confused with Agaricus bisporus)
  • White tree mushroom

The species tends to appear after heavy rains and is particularly prevalent in China, Japan, Brazil, and Taiwan. Like many of the other mushrooms that we’ve covered here on shroomer, Tremella fuciformis is a wood-rot fungus—but with a key distinction.

A characteristic trait of most jelly fungi is that they usually grow in a symbiotic relationship with other nearby mushrooms. In the case of T. fuciformis, its typical partners are fungi from the Hypoxylon genus—small mushrooms commonly found on dead wood.

It’s unclear whether or not the symbiotic relationship between the two is mutually beneficial or if T. fuciformis actually parasitizes Hypoxylon. In any case, it’s common to find them together—but it’s also possible for tremella mushrooms to grow on their own.

T. fuciformis is traditionally used as alternative medicine, but recently it has grown popular as a versatile ingredient. It has a distinct spicy odor and a chewy texture. While its flavor may not be as strong as other fungi, its gelatinous consistency makes it a flexible addition to any kitchen (1) (2).

How does tremella fuciformis look?

Snow mushroom on a table

Snow mushrooms have a unique look, as their fruiting bodies consist of gelatinous translucent blobs that can be up to 7 cm (2.7 in) across and 4 cm (1.5 in) high. The blob surface is smooth and shiny, firm to the touch, and has a whitish hue that obstructs the fungus’ transparency.

However, the blobs are very thin, so they may break or fall off if you’re not careful. The blobs may become even softer with age, and the color may shift to light tan. However, the spore print is completely white (1) (2). 

What are the varieties of snow mushrooms?

There aren’t any known varieties or subspecies of snow mushrooms. 

Previously, however, there were two different records describing T. fuciformis. The first one is Tremella fuciformis f. fuciformis, dating back to 1856. The other one is Tremella fuciformis f. corniculata, which was described in Tokyo in 1939.

The two records are now considered synonymous, but they may lead to confusion if you’re looking for information online. Remember that the two names describe exactly the same mushroom. The same also applies to a third but much less common synonym: Tremella nipponica (3).

History of snow mushrooms

Tremella fuciformis on a branch

The snow fungus has been a staple item of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It’s commonly used to treat dry coughs and as a beauty product because it can reduce freckles and improve certain complexions.

While not much is known about the exact usage of snow mushrooms by the Ancient Chinese, the first record of the species dates back to 1832, when it was first described in Tongjiang County. However, snow fungi were expensive at the time and only available to the highest classes.

A few years later, the first European record of snow mushrooms appears. Miles Joseph Berkeley, a renowned botanist, described this mushroom in 1856, giving it its current name and detailing some of its key characteristics.

However, it wasn’t until 1894 that mushroom cultivators discovered snow mushrooms could be grown artificially on logs. This lowered their price significantly, and the cultivation techniques grew more sophisticated afterward.

Around the 1970s, scientists created a new cultivation technique that involved sawdust. This allowed the mass production of the species, distributing it to every continent in the world (4) (5).

Nowadays, with prices lower than ever, snow mushrooms are a common ingredient in most mushroom lovers’ kitchens and also in skincare products. Furthermore, scientists are researching the species for its potential health benefits.

Health benefits of snow mushrooms

Portrait of snow mushrooms

Tremella fuciformis is a great example of a “functional mushroom”—fungi with significant health and nutritional benefits. While traditionally it was used for its therapeutic properties, recent research shows it also has a fantastic nutrient balance.

A serving of snow mushrooms is composed of about 70% carbohydrates, 7% protein, and 1% fat (the leftover 22% is mostly fiber, salt, and water). Furthermore, it contains important micronutrients, such as (1) (4):

  • Folate
  • Zinc
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and D

But by far the most important and sought-after components in T. fuciformis are its polysaccharides. Research shows that these compounds have significant medicinal properties—some of which may have been unknown to people using snow fungi as folk medicine.

A 2021 review states that Tremella polysaccharides could inhibit various cancer cells, including those of lung, prostate, and liver cancer. At the same time, they can modulate and stimulate the immune system, further helping combat tumors.

These polysaccharides also have neuroprotective effects, partly due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. As a result, these can be useful in managing conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and coronary heart disease.

However, the most famous benefit of snow fungi is skin health. A lot of the usual damage we see on people’s skin comes from a lack of hydration, which can cause fine lines, wrinkles, and reduced elasticity. T. fuciformis moisturizes dry skin, relieving dehydration and reducing damage caused by UV light.

At the same time, oral Tremella fuciformis can help maintain the collagen ratio and promote wound healing. It’s no wonder snow mushrooms are among the most popular anti-aging and beauty products today (6).

Snow mushrooms are—along with other functional fungi such as chaga, reishi, and maitake—a great addition to any skincare routine. But always remember to check with a dermatologist or perform a patch test before trying anything new. Also, keep in mind that trending products may claim to do more than they can actually do.

Where do snow mushrooms grow?

Mushrooms on a tree branch

Snow mushrooms are tropical and subtropical fungi, particularly prevalent in Asia and South America (especially Japan, China, and Brazil). Still, it’s possible to find them on other continents, like North America and Europe.

They grow on dead hardwood (such as oaks, willows, and maples), especially on fallen branches. Snow fungi are one of the few species available year-round, but they tend to appear after heavy rains.

While artificial cultivation is possible through sawdust substrates, growing snow fungi have the extra difficulty of having to also cultivate their symbiotic partner. This makes it a rather challenging mushroom to grow at home (1) (2) (7).

What is ethical wildcrafting?

Ethical wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting natural resources, such as mushrooms, in a way that doesn’t damage the environment. Picking wild fungi without care can severely impact your local ecosystem by harming the mushroom populations or the animal species that feed on them.

But don’t worry. Following these guidelines is relatively simple, as they mostly involve performing proper research before heading out to the field. Here are the most crucial rules to keep in mind:

  • Take note of any possible endangered or poisonous lookalikes in your area
  • Don’t disclose patch locations with friends or family to avoid over-harvesting
  • Pick the fruiting bodies gently—using excessive force can damage the surrounding mycelium
  • If you’re harvesting on private land, ask for permission from the landowner
  • If you’re harvesting on public land, check local harvesting laws

If it’s your first time harvesting, or you’re unsure how to properly follow these guidelines, try to find and join local harvesting groups. Veteran mushroom pickers will usually be happy to show you how to wildcraft correctly.

Is it safe to wildcraft for the snow fungus?

It’s never 100% safe to wildcraft wild mushrooms. There’s always the possibility of coming across a non-edible lookalike. While there aren’t any known toxic lookalikes for T. fuciformis, it’s better to only eat store-bought mushrooms just to be safe.

Furthermore, wild-picked mushrooms can sometimes carry toxins from the environment. This can lead to gastric discomfort—so make sure you only eat wild fungi if they’re thoroughly cooked.

How do you take snow mushrooms?

Dried snow mushrooms

There isn’t a strict way to eat snow mushrooms. Instead, this versatile species can be added to several recipes, either as an ingredient or as the main dish. In fact, and unlike other mushrooms, T. fuciformis even pairs well with sweet flavors.

For example, many people add it to ice cream as a topping to add some nutritional value to an already delicious dessert. It’s also a fantastic ingredient for dessert soup that will surely leave your guests astonished!

For main courses, you can opt for cooking snow fungi in a variety of ways—from simmering to roasting, this species can take it all. In addition, it pairs well with almost any other mushroom, such as shiitakes and pink oyster mushrooms.

If you only want to reap the medicinal properties of T. fuciformis, you might find it more useful to buy a snow mushroom extract instead. These are usually sold as beauty products, but specialized supplement stores may also have pure extract if you want to use it for other benefits.

Snow mushrooms: Crystal-clear benefits

Snow fungi are, by far, one of the top choices when it comes to using mushrooms for skin health. These unique-looking mushrooms have dozens of health benefits, from hydrating the skin to reducing inflammation. And you can even add them to ice cream—is there anything more one could ask for?

To learn about other types of mushrooms, keep up on shroomer. Here, you’ll find all the details you need about psychedelic and functional fungi from all over the world, along with the latest news on medicinal research on edible mushrooms.

References

  1. Specialty Produce. “Snow Mushrooms.” (No date). https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Snow_Mushrooms_1139.php
  2. Kuo, M. “Tremella fuciformis.” MushroomExpert.com (2008). https://www.mushroomexpert.com/tremella_fuciformis.html
  3. MycoBank. “Tremella fuciformis.” (No date). https://www.mycobank.org/page/Name%20details%20page/107429
  4. Ruixia Wang. “Historical Note: Scientific Exploration of the Snow Fungus (Tremella fuciformis Berk.).” Indian Journal of History of Science 50(2) (2015): 340–344. http://dx.doi.org/10.16943/ijhs/2015/v50i2/48244
  5. Shu-ting Chang, Philip G. Miles. “Tremella — Increased Production by a Mixed Culture Technique.” in Mushrooms: Cultivation, Nutritional Value, Medicinal Effect, and Environmental Impact (2004): 327–341.
  6. Xia Ma, Meng Yang, Yan He, Chuntao Zhai, Chengliang Li. “A review on the production, structure, bioactivities and applications of Tremella polysaccharides.” International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology 35 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1177%2F20587384211000541
  7. Alice W. Chen, Nian Lai Huang. “Production of the Medicinal Mushroom Tremella fuciformis Berk. by Mixed-Culture Cultivation on Synthetic Logs.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 3(2-3) (2001). http://dx.doi.org/10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v3.i2-3.470

Fact Checked: Mar Yvette


Tags

ShroomWiki
Julian Selemin

Julian Selemin

Content Writer

Table Of Contents

1
What are snow mushrooms?
2
What are the varieties of snow mushrooms?
3
History of snow mushrooms
4
Health benefits of snow mushrooms
5
Where do snow mushrooms grow?
6
How do you take snow mushrooms?
7
Snow mushrooms: Crystal-clear benefits

Related Posts

The Complete Guide to Stinkhorn Mushrooms
February 19, 2024
7 min

Our TeamAbout Us