Dead Man's Fingers, Xylaria polymorpha
Xylariaceae or Dead Man's Fingers Family


Mushroom vaguely like misshapen fingers, dry and corky in texture. In the spring it is often white to gray because of the production of white asexual spores (called conidia), as seenin the middle row. It later turns black, but, in contrast, the inside is pure, cottony white (bottom). The black surface is produced by the black spore-producing structures, the perithecia, which are little bottle-shaped structures that cover the outer surface and can be seen in the cross-section below. Each perithecium opens to the ouside through a tiny pore, through which the sexuak spores (called ascospores) are released. This fungus grows on, and causes rot in stumps, and fallen logs and branches.

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

Easily identified when found, based on its creepy resemblance to projecting parts of a decaying body. Carbon antlers (X. hypoxylon) are smaller and much thinner, but otherwise similar. Carbon balls (Daldinia concentrica) are pretty much ball-shaped. All are related and all owe their black color to black perithecia.

Mature mushroom
Mature Mushroom

 White (conidial) phase population

White (conidial) phase

 Cross section showing perithecia


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