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Star Jelly

Star Jelly

“I was reading your “Satan & the Holy Cross” page, which I found quite entertaining. You did mention “White Jelly fungus” which is sometimes found on Dartmoor. I have sometimes come across this substance on Dartmoor, and wondered what it is. The stuff I have seen,  which looks just like your photo, always appears to be found in boggy areas.  I have seen a lump of it in the centre of a flat granite “paving” stone beside the Grimstone and Sortridge leat.  This seems unlikely for a fungus.  When I have found it in grass it appears to be on top of the grass and not attached to the ground.  I rather favour the frog jelly regurgitated by herons theory, but I have seen it in October which is not the right time of year.  I last saw some close to the brook between Feather Tor and Vixen Tor on January 19th this year” – David Ayres 13.04.2012.

Having received the above email from David prompted my memory to compile this web page regarding the mysterious ‘white jelly’ that appears on Dartmoor and in other places across Great Britain. It appears this mysterious ‘jelly’ has raised enough questions for BBC Scotland’s Outdoor team to investigate the matter further, (see link opposite). By no means is this a modern phenomenon because in the 1300s one John of Gaddesden noted in a medical journal the use of stella terrae (star of the earth) in the treatment of abscesses. In 1656 Henry More penned the following: ‘That the Starres eat…that those falling Starres, as some call them, which are found on the earth in the form of a trembling gelly, are their excrement.’ What prompted these words was and in some cases still is the belief that the jelly is a deposit which originates from fallen meteors, hence the name ‘Star Jelly’.

Star Jelly AKA Piskie Snot

Above is a photograph of some ‘Star Jelly’ which I found aptly enough around Omen Beam in 2009, at that time I called it ‘White Fungus Jelly’ or to be more precise Tremella fuciformis which seemed plausible. However, looking now at the images on Google they don’t look much like what was found on the moor. Unfortunately I have been unable to find any Dartmoor related information on the subject apart from the occasional sightings on the internet.

However in Scotland things are different thanks to the Scotland Outdoors Team who enlisted firstly the advice of David Genny a fungi adviser for Scottish Natural Heritage. He considers that the jelly is in a unique group known as Slime Mould of which there are about 350 species in the UK. Apparently they are normal single cell organism who occasionally come together as a huge mass weighing anything up to 20kg and are highly mobile.

The Scotland Outdoors team managed to get a sample sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh for examination. Dr Hans Sluiman confirmed that there were green algae cells called diatoms contained within the jelly but from the sample he deduced it was neither animal or plant. Another sample was then given to Dr Andy Taylor of the McCauley Institute who also  examined the jelly under a microscope and found possible fungal filaments, bacteria and unfertilised eggs which were though to be from a frog. Also some DNA was extracted for analysis and then compared with a National Database where a match with a mould was found but this was thought not to be the answer as it was growing on the jelly. After looking at all the various possibilities Taylor opted for the amphibian option. This is a theory that many other experts concur with who suggest that the jelly consists of  the remains of the oviducts of frogs which from about Autumn are full of spawn. The frogs have then been predated and the oviducts left, possibly because the predators found it distasteful?

On Dartmoor the predators could have been foxes, herons, crows, ravens etc. I had not really paid much attention to my jelly photograph until now, and looking at it in light of the predated frog theory it is interesting to note that on the right of the jelly covered mound is a lump of faeces. Sadly at the time of taking the photo I was unaware of the jelly topic and did not pay much attention to the dung but it does look very much like that from a fox/owl. In which case did a fox/owl eat some frogs and then discard the oviducts on the mound and the defecate on it? The photograph was taken around January time which could be around the time frogs come out of hibernation and the sighting Dave Ayres made in October could have been just before the frogs hibernated for Winter.

Having looked at the plausible explanations for ‘Star Jelly’ let’s now see the ‘what you been smoking’ ideas. Some say it’s Stag’s semen or deer spit, others that it is some kind of excreta deposited by visiting aliens and if you really want to get into ‘La La Land’ try ‘Chemtrails’. This is the theory that various governments are spraying unidentified chemical or biological agents at high altitudes for sinister clandestine programs. The jelly is therefore fall-out from such operations and is believed to be the cause of Morgellons Disease which supposedly causes a variety of ski problems. But just maybe the jelly on Dartmoor is ‘Piskie Puke’ and is the result of a heavy night on too much Cowflop Juice at a Piskie Revel.

Star Jelly

An interesting interview (thanks to Keith Ryan) – HERE

It would be very interesting to start a data base of jelly findings on Dartmoor comprising of a photo, the location and date of the discovery. Should anyone be interested please send me the details and I will compile the results on an ongoing basis.

Dartmoor Star Jelly Sightings

Date Grid Reference Location Photo
16.10.2012 SX 5982 6382 Shell Top  
15.11.2012 SX 6529 7479 South of Laughter Tor HERE
15.11.2012 SX 6567 7401 Huccaby Tor HERE
15.11.2012 SX 5398 8557 Brat Tor HERE
21.11.2012 SX 7334 7528 Wittaburrow  
26.11.2012 SX 6074 7049 Nun’s Cross/Whiteworks HERE
05.12.2012 SX 7356 7552 Blackslade Down (multiple sightings) HERE
01.11.2014 SX 5563 7392 King Tor HERE

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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  1. melony gallagher

    I livery in Manadon area in Plymouth and today have discovered some green “star jelly” laying on top of the soil of my potted sunflowers. The soil was new compost early in sprint 2015 – more than 12 months ago. Not been fertilised since summer 2015 either.

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