P&PDL Picture of the Week for
November 13, 2006

Dead Man's Fingers

Karen Rane, Sr. Plant Disease Diagnostician, Dept. of Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University

A bit late for Halloween, but spooky nonetheless, are the black elongate structures of the fungus Xylaria polymorpha. The common name for this fungus, dead man's fingers, evokes visions of skeleton hands poking out of the ground. In reality, these are the spore-bearing structures of a wood-rotting Ascomycete fungus. The photos show the remnants of a dead cotoneaster shrub, with black Xylaria "fingers" at the base of the trunk. Spores are produced within microscopic, flask-shaped structures that develop on the surface of the "fingers".

Tom Volk, in the Department of Biology at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, has an excellent website on fungi. His entry on Xylaria can be found at the following link: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/apr2000.html

Click image to enlarge

Xylaria

Close up of xylaria

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service