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Dead Man’s Fingers

6-17-13 dead man's fingers 028Typically you find this fungus growing from the base of a rotting stump, poking up through the ground like a dead man’s fingers — hence, the name. The “fingers”, or fruiting bodies, can take many forms, including individual fingers or fused fingers that resemble a hand. It’s thought that Dead Man’s Fingers, Xylaria polymorpha, is actually several species of fungi, which have yet to be identified. In the spring, this fungus is covered with light-colored, asexual spores, which give it a grayish tint. As it matures, it darkens with the production of mature spores, eventually turning black. Most fungi disperse their spores over a period of a few hours or days. Dead Man’s Fingers is much slower, releasing its spores over many months or even years. (Thanks to Marian and Charles Marrin for photo op.)

9 responses

  1. I read the title of this blog post and immediately thought to myself, ‘since when did Mary start doing masonry?!’ (Dead man’s fingers are a name given to the long rocks placed perpendicularly into a wall to help anchor it to the soil behind and that also keep the from buckling out over time…)
    Fascinating fungus! Creepy photo!

    June 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    • Not being a builder, I had no idea about the masonry connection — almost as interesting as fungi! Thanks, Mark.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    Is it hard or soft to the touch?

    June 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    • Hi Kathie,
      It’s hard to the touch — and pure white on the inside!

      June 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

  3. Ainsley Donaldson

    Yours is the most fascinating, creative, and gorgeously photographed blog ever! Thank you so much. I look forward to every day with Naturally Curious.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    • Thank you so much, Ainsley. It’s great fun to share my discoveries with others who share my interest and passion!

      June 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm

  4. That is really cool, in an incredibly gross/disturbing sort of way!

    June 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

  5. dd

    I just saw these in the woods yesterday and took a photo. I was wondering what they were and hoping to be able to ID them with my fungus book. Thanks for your perfect timing!

    June 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm

  6. I love dead man’s fingers! Reaching up and looking for life on earth! lol

    June 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

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