The Spooky Dead Man’s Fingers’ Fungus

Samuel Reason | May 29th, 2019

If you are walking around the forest and happen to see a pair of fingers protruding out of the ground. Don’t be alarmed, chances are it is just a fungus. This scary and spooky dead man’s fingers’ fungus has caused many a panic during its thousands of years of existence. Police have been called to forests around the world, only to find, someone mistook a herb for a dead body.

And to be honest, it is really easy to see why this fungus would spook someone. Known as Xylaria Polymorpha, if a name was not scary enough, it is often looking like some decayed human fingers popping out of the ground. These spooky looking dead fingers appear to be reaching out of the forest floor. Without adequate lighting in a gloomy forest, hikers easily mistake the fungus for an actual dead body.

The fungus grows as a single stem, but frequently it goes out as five branches, making it perfectly embody the human hand. Each branch can grow up to eight centimeters tall, and despite it looking very morbid they are actually quite harmless. This type of fungus is simply a wood decay that grows on top of a tree’s roots.

Commonly it is found on the east of the Rocky Mountains, though it has been spotted on numerous mountain ranges around the world. Normally they sprout in the autumn, with the finger-like fungus going black and brown on the outside while keeping a bright white interior color.

At one point it will shoot out its spores from the tip of the “finger” to pollinate the forest with its spores and keep the fungus alive. The unique thing about the dead man’s fingers’ fungus is that this process sometimes takes months to a year, making it quite a rare mushroom. Many mushrooms only live a couple of days and then disperse their spores immediately, whereas the polymorpha mushroom has a long life span and can take some time to germinate.

One thing to note is though it is not known to be harmful, they are not considered edible: as it has a hardwood-like texture. So if you do spot them in the forest bed, best to just give the dead hand a wave and continue on your way!

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