This Creepy-Looking Fungus Known as "Dead Man's Fingers" Is Giving Us Major Halloween Vibes

Kelly Corbett
Photo credit: Instagram
Photo credit: Instagram

From House Beautiful

Nature is beautiful, yes, but it can also be very bizarre. We've seen trees with rainbow bark, jellyfish succulents, goldfish plants, and now Xylaria polymorpha, otherwise known as... dead man's fingers.



Is your heart thumping right now? According to Penn State University, Xylaria polymorpha is a type of fungus commonly found throughout the deciduous forests of North America and Europe.

It tends to grow in numbers, or rather colonize on dead or decaying wood, such as a tree that may be under stress due to disease or water deficit. Over time, the growth of this fungi will cause the tree to "soft rot." It can either grow from the trunk or the tree's roots directly, or sprout up from the soil or mulch at the base of the tree. So basically, it feeds on death,

As each fungus grows, it takes on a shape that looks eerily familiar to a finger. To make matters worse, these "fingers" often clump up to form what looks a lot like a zombie’s hand, or what I would imagine a zombie’s hand looks like.

As it begins to grow, it typically takes on a pale or bluish tone, with a white tip. This white tip is a spore, although if you ask me, it looks like the fingernail of a monster. The fungi will later transition to a dark gray and then black, according to Gardening Know How (though spore production can last for several months or even years).

Bottom line: if you ever spot some spooky looking digits sprouting out of the soil, it's probably not a zombie buried underground and trying to break free. It’s just a very peculiar fungus doing its thing. Regardless, we're spooked.

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