Fungus Among Us

All the wet weather this May is making conditions perfect for fungus! These pictures feature Xylaria polymorpha which is commonly known as Dead Man’s Fingers. What a fun name and perfect if anyone is starting to get into the Halloween spirit a little bit early!

The scientific name helps us understand a little more about the fungus. “Xylaria” means “to grow on wood” and “polymorpha” means “many shapes”. Dead Man’s Fingers are often found growing at the base of dead or dying trees in deciduous forests. It comes in many shapes and sizes but always bears a little bit of a resemblance to fingers or hands.

Fungus is an important part of the life cycle of a tree. When a tree is at the end of its life, fungus begins to grow as it digests parts of the wood and aids in decomposition.

For more information about researching and collecting fungi common in Iowa, download the Is There A Fungus Among Us? activity from the Springbrook Education Center.

Helpful Resources

Common Mushrooms of Iowa and Missouri

Iowa’s Mushrooms and Nonflowering Plants