Nature is weird. The Xylaria polymorpha -- more commonly known as Dead Man's Fingers -- is a saprobic fungus that honestly looks a lot like the fingers of a dead person rising from the grave. What else do we know about this eerie mushroom?
What Are Dead Man's Fingers?
The Dead Man's Fingers fungus is part of the Xylaria species. It is found in "forest and woodland areas, usually growing from the bases of rotting or injured tree stumps and decaying wood," Wikipedia reported. "They are characterized by a saclike structure, the ascus, which contains anything from four to eight ascospores."
Wikipedia also noted that in the spring, these produce "a layer of white or bluish asexual spores called conidia, which grow on its surface and surrounding area." Frankly, that doesn't make it sound any less creepy. The fungus also causes a "soft rot" in the stumps or logs it grows in, Mushroom Expert reported.
Morel hunters will generally want to keep an eye out for dark brown to black mushrooms if they're looking for Dead Man's Fingers.
Where Can You Find Dead Man's Fingers?
This fungus grows in Britain and Ireland but is also found in mainland Europe and in parts of North America, according to Bored Panda. They grow in the woods, in decaying wood for the most part, but sometimes in the mulch at the base of a tree, Boredom Therapy noted. In that case, the unsettling "fingers" are much easier to remove. If it's in the trunk or roots of a tree, it's likely the tree cannot be saved, according to the outlet.
Can You Eat Dead Man's Finger Mushrooms?
These mushrooms are inedible, according to several sources. So even if you find pics of Dead Man's Fingers on social media and think they'd make a great statement piece for your Halloween party menu, think twice and stick to other spooky snacks instead.