The ‘Dead Man’s Fingers’ fungus looks even creepier than it sounds

The wonders of Mother Earth never cease to amaze us, as exemplified by the astounding giant bats and the menacing “snakes” lurking in a tree. When Regan Daniels, a resident of North Carolina, shared a captivating series of photographs on the Mushroomcore Facebook group, they quickly gained widespread attention. The images revealed an intriguing discovery made by Regan Daniels during a stroll in Western North Carolina back in June 2020. The peculiar sight compelled her to reach for her camera and immortalize the moment, ultimately sharing the pictures with the Mushroomcore community.


The Mushroomcore group, comprising 30,000 members accustomed to awe-inspiring forest imagery and captivating details, found Regan’s photograph to be truly exceptional. So, what was the subject of her encounter? Regan had captured the image of a fungus known as Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha). These peculiar fungi, with their swollen and darkened “fingers” stretching skyward, aptly earn their name by resembling a buried individual making a desperate last-ditch effort to escape from beneath the forest floor.


In her post, Regan exclaimed, “Saw this Dead Man’s Fingers (or toes in this case) fungus that I literally thought was a Halloween decoration!” While the appearance of this fungus is undeniably striking and distinctive, it is actually quite common and can be found throughout the year. These types of mushrooms are prevalent in various regions, including Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe, and different parts of North America. Therefore, with a keen eye, it is not impossible to stumble upon these swollen and wart-covered “fingers.”

To spot them, one should search on stumps or decaying wood of broadleaved trees, particularly beech trees. The fungus exclusively thrives on dead or dying wood, explaining why Dead Man’s Fingers often emerge through layers of moss and decomposing leaves.

First-Nature states that the fungus, Xylaria polymorpha, is typically not regarded as edible. Regan Daniels made an unexpected discovery of these eerie-looking clusters of mushrooms during one of her visits to a park in North Carolina. Emerging from a stump, these macabre formations were accompanied by a group of other mushrooms of the same species. While some skeptics dismissed the images as fraudulent, deeming them too surreal to be true, it is important to note that these mushrooms are, in fact, authentic. A plethora of captivating photographs showcasing these fascinating specimens can be found online, further validating their existence.

“I found the mushroom in Western North Carolina in the United States at a park that I frequent,” Regan told Bored Panda and added, “The walk is nice [and] it’s next to the French Broad River so there’s a lot of good scenery.”

Despite Reagan’s discovery occurring in a popular location, the examples she found appeared remarkably intact. This is not entirely surprising, as few people would dare to pick these mushrooms due to the perception that they might be toxic or potentially harmful. The mysterious and unsettling appearance of the Dead Man’s Fingers fungus could contribute to the hesitancy in handling or consuming it. Thus, these unique specimens often remain undisturbed, allowing them to maintain their pristine condition in the wild.

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