Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)

This fungus will probably give you a heart attack if you saw it poking out from under a log. Their long and dark appearance makes them look like decayed fingers. But what is this fungus? Let's look at the science and find out for ourselves.





Physical Description and Behavior


This fungus pops out of the ground in long black "fingers" 1 to 3 cm in diameter and can be upwards of 8 cm tall. These fingers can be a peach to whitish color before turning a darker gray, which makes them look more like decomposing fingers. They start out covered in a power during their younger and asexual phase, which become more granular over time.


They appear on decaying wood, even if the wood is underground. This fungus start to pop up during the spring months and do not start to decompose until late summer, or even into the fall. Although the tough "fruiting bodies" of the spores can last for quite a bit longer, potentially hardening which makes it easy to mistake it for animal feces.


Despite their... appetizing appearance, they are not considered to be edible. Part of the reason for this is because they are very hard and are not exactly tasty. But another reason is that they contain amatoxin and phallotoxin, which are also found in some of the most dangerous mushrooms in the world. While they do not seem to be in high enough quantities to do any significant harm, it is probably worth it to just pass up these mushrooms.


Habitat and Location





These fungi can be found all throughout the United States, and even in the UK and Ireland. Other species of Xylaria have been found in locations such as Indonesia and parts of Africa as well.


You can learn a little bit more about this fungus by checking out the video below




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