Carbon Balls or King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica
Xylariaceae or Dead Man's Fingers Family


Mushroom more-or-less ball-shaped, hard, woody, dark brown to black, gowing on, and causing rot in stumps, and fallen logs and branches. In cross-section, a layer of black reproductive structures, called perithecia, can be seen all around the surface. Each perithecium opens to the ouside through a tiny pore, through which the sexuak spores (called ascospores) are shot out. This fungus is a perennial, producing a new layer of perithecia each year; the layers are visible as concentric rings when the fungus is cut in half.

Quite common in the Park, but rarely noticed by most people.

Easily identified when found; no other brown ball-shaped fungus is woody. If cut open, the concentric rings confirm the identification.

The common name, King Alfred's Cakes, refers to a legend about King Alfred of Britain. Supposedly when fleeing from a losing battle with the Danes he took refuge with an old peasant woman. Not knowing who her guest was, she put him in charge of watching the cakes cooking on the hearth. Being a king, he knew little of mundane things like cooking, so his cakes supposedly came to resemble this fungus.

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