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Dead Man’s Fingers

Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha) is a fungus that can be found growing from the bases of rotting stumps, and gets its common name from the way its fruiting body pokes up through the ground like a dead man’s fingers.   “Xylaria” refers to growing  on wood and “polymorpha” means many forms.  This species has a very variable fruiting body, sometimes with many separate “fingers” and sometimes with the fingers fused into something more like a hand.

2 responses

  1. ht

    Slugs and all! I’ve never spotted these. Are the spores released through what appears to be a hole at the top?

    August 25, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    • This fungus reproduces with spores that are located in sac-like structures called perithecia – the little black dots that cover the surface of the fungus. The spores are released slowly, over several months and even years, unlike most fungi, which release their spores within a matter of a few hours or days each year. I haven’t determined what the holes are at the top of the “fingers” but will let you know if I do!

      August 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm

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