By: Jackie Carroll
If you have black, club-shaped mushrooms at or near the base of a tree, you may have dead man’s finger fungus. This fungus may indicate a serious condition that needs your immediate attention. Read this article for dead man’s finger facts and tips for handling the problem.
Xylaria polymorpha, the fungus that causes dead man’s finger, is a saprotrophic fungus, which means that it only invades dead or dying wood. Think of saprotrophic fungi as natural sanitation engineers that clean up dead organic matter by breaking it down into a form that plants can absorb as nutrients.
The fungus shows a preference for apple, maple, beech, locust, and elm trees, but it can also invade a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs used in home landscapes. The fungus is the result of a problem rather than the cause because it never invades healthy wood. On trees, it often begins in bark lesions. It can also invade damaged roots, which later develop root rot.
A dead man’s finger “plant” is actually a mushroom. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies (reproductive stage) of fungi. It is shaped like a human finger, each about 1.5 to 4 inches (3.8-10 cm.) tall. A clump of the mushrooms looks like a human hand.
The mushroom arises in spring. It may be pale or bluish with a white tip at first. The fungus matures to dark gray and then black. Trees infected with the disease show a gradual decline. Apple trees may produce a large number of small fruit before they die.
When you find dead man’s finger, the first thing you want to do is determine the source of the growth. Is it growing from the trunk of the tree or the roots? Or is it growing on the mulch at the base of the tree?
Dead man’s finger growing on the trunk or roots of a tree is very bad news. The fungus breaks down the structure of the tree quickly, causing a condition known as soft rot. There is no cure, and you should remove the tree before it becomes a hazard. Infected trees can collapse and fall without warning.
If the fungus is growing in hardwood mulch and is not connected to the tree, removing the mulch solves the problem.
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Read more about Fungus & Lichen
Dead man’s toes fungus, the creepy Xylaria polymorpha, is pure nightmare fuel. Is it the fingers of a corpse or a mushroom? You don’t want to find this in the woods.
Fungi is…strange. It can solve a maze, turn insects into zombies, cause hallucinations (which may have sparked human evolution, according to psychedelic mystic Terence McKenna), and devour human bodies for a cleaner decomposition through things like the mushroom death suit actor Luke Perry was buried in last year. It might even be responsible for one of the most ridiculous cryptids ever, the legend of the furry trout.
Fungus is like the weird uncle of the plant kingdom. Except it’s not even a plant. Anymore.
“Fungi were listed in the Plant Kingdom for many years,” the University of Utah biology department says. “Then scientists learned that fungi show a closer relation to animals, but are unique and separate life forms.”
The part of the fungus you actually see is the “fruit” of the organism, which ranges in appearance from vomit to the rotting digits of a corpse.
A photo of the Dead Man’s Toes fungus by Regan Daniels
This image has been making the rounds on social media recently as “dead man’s toes.” The unusually foot-like specimen was found growing under a tree root in a park in the Western part of North Carolina by Regan Daniels, who snapped the photo and thankfully decided to share the horror with the rest of the world.
But necrophiliac foot festishists will be disappointed to learn that this dead man’s toe fungus is not actually necrotic little piggies. Rather, these grey digits are the fruit, or stromata, of the fungus Xylaria polymorpha, more commonly known as Dead Man’s Fingers “which usually arises in tufts of three to six fingers that are often bent and give the impression of arthritic black knuckles” according to First Nature.
This fungi is common throughout Britain and Ireland, but it is also found throughout parts of Europe and North America. It tends to grow at the base of beechwood stumps, as well as from buried hardwoods.
Want more Dead Man’s Toes fungus? Here are some nightmarish photos of the Xylaria polymorpha mushroom:
Macabre-looking clusters of hard, swollen, warty ‘fingers’, 3–8cm high. When young they are pale grey with a whitish tip. The pale covering is a coating of asexual spores produced in the early stage of their development. Inside, the flesh is white and tough under the black spore-bearing outer layer.
Fruiting bodies: finger-shaped, grey or brown, blackening with age, varying from 1–3cm.
Gills/spores: the spores are dark brown when developed, banana-shaped with a black spore print.
Stipe: a small stalk which attaches the fruiting ‘finger’ to the dead wood.
Not to be confused with: dead moll’s fingers (Xylaria longipes), which look similar but are daintier and less common. They are mainly to be seen on dead stumps and branches of sycamore.
Have you ever seen "burnt fingers" poking out of fallen leaves on the forest floor? Don't panic. They are not real fingers, but a type of fungus named Xylaria polymorpha, commonly known as dead man's fingers.
Xylaria polymorpha, also called dead man's fingers, in Hocking County, Ohio, U.S. /CFP
The fungus has multiple scientific names, such as Coelorhopalon obovatum or Hypoxylon polymorphum, depending on its body and color, which change a lot during its lifespan. When scientists discovered dead man's fingers growing at different stages, they recognized them as disparate species and gave different names.
Dead man's fingers growing on a log. /CFP
As for its name Xylaria, it has been derived from the Latin word xulon, literally meaning wood, which refers to their habitat. Dead man's fingers are often found on rotting wood and dead trumps of beech and other broadleaf trees. They are widespread in Europe and North America.
Dead man's fingers on decaying wood. /CFP
The fungi are mostly seen in a clavate or club-like shape and grow in tufts of three to six. However, it's not the only form in which they exist – part of its name "polymorpha" means "many forms." When the fungi are young in early spring, they are pale or bluish with a white tip. By summer, they begin to blacken and finally turn black in late summer or fall.
Xylaria longipes, also known as dead moll's fingers. /CFP
Sometimes, people confuse Xylaria polymorpha with Xylaria longipes, or dead moll's fingers, which are more slender and have smaller spores. Despite the slight difference, all Xylaria fungi are inedible because they contain toxic substances, such as amatoxin and phallotoxin. You probably don't want to try it either for its creepy look.
What is the most ancient land-based life after bacteria? Fungi! An industrious decomposer in the natural world, fungi have existed for almost a billion years, at least 500 million years older than the first land plants. In the series "Alien Fungi," CGTN explores some peculiar-looking fungi with alien features and observes how they enjoy their eternal, cryptic lives on damp floors, decaying wood and hidden areas.
Well, it seems like you all LOVED Sophie from the new season of SS16. I was too caught up in watching the show to even see this shit unfold. You all already found her myspace & lj.
So here's some pikz from 2002, 7th grade yearbook:
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i was crying from laughing so hard when they took her to a "hair consultant"
ALL THAT DAMN GIRL NEEDS IS A FUCKING PERM.
My family says the same thing about Whitney Houston's daughter.
She should have her hair done everyday and she shouldn't be that fat!
THIS HOE IS GETTING TAUNTED ROFL DEAD!!
Ooh, she's gone all "friends only" on us. Boo-to-the-hoo.
And you know everyone who watched that episode of MSS16 and the fact that MTV made it commercial-free is just feeding fire to the monster that is Sophia Mitchell.
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Xylaria polymorpha, commonly known as dead man's fingers, is a saprobic fungus. It is a common inhabitant of forest and woodland areas, usually growing from the bases of rotting or injured tree stumps and decaying wood. It has also been known to colonize substrates like woody legume pods, petioles, and herbaceous stems. It is characterized by its elongated upright, clavate, or strap-like stromata poking up through the ground, much like fingers. The genus Xylaria contains about 100 species of cosmopolitan fungi. Polymorpha means "many forms". As its name suggests, it has a very variable but often club-shaped fruiting body (stroma) resembling burned wood.
Often this fungus is found with a multitude of separate "digits" but at times the individual parts will be fused together.
Belonging to the phylum of fungus known as Ascomycetes (division Mycota) known as the sac fungi, they are characterized by a saclike structure, the ascus, which contains anything from four to eight ascospores in the sexual stage. The sac fungi are separated into subgroups based on whether asci arise singly or are borne in one of several types of fruiting structures, or ascocarps, and on the method of discharge of the ascospores. Many ascomycetes are plant pathogens, some are animal pathogens, a few are edible mushrooms, and many live on dead organic matter (as saprobes). The largest and most commonly known ascomycetes include the morel and the truffle, however, X. polymorpha is an inedible variety. 
The dark fruiting body (often black or brown, but sometimes shades of blue/green) is white on the inside, with a blackened dotted area all around. This blackened surrounding area is made up of tiny structures called perithecia. The perithecia hold a layer of asci which contain the ascospores. The asci elongate into the ostiole, and discharge the ascospores outward. The spore distribution is a lengthy process, sometimes taking several months to complete this part of the life cycle, this is not a common trait amongst fungi, as is normally a much swifter process.
In springtime this fungus often produces a layer of white or bluish asexual spores called conidia, which grow on its surface and surrounding area.
When Nick Santonastasso was 2 years old, his father left him alone on the living room floor while he went into the garage for a moment, only to hear an odd clanking noise a few minutes later.
Nick was born with Hanhart syndrome, a rare birth defect that left him with no legs, an undeveloped right arm, and a left arm with one finger. Doctors told his parents that his mobility would be limited.
“I opened the door from the garage, and Nick had pushed his wagon up next to the table, climbed into the wagon, then gotten up onto a chair before pushing himself onto the table,’’ Mike Santonastasso told TODAY.com. “He was on the table, watching MTV and dancing. Since he was 2 years old, he’s been shocking us with the things he does.”
Norman Reedus, a star of the popular TV horror drama "The Walking Dead," can now count himself among the people Nick has shocked — except this time it was intentional. In an online video that has gone viral since it was posted Jan. 17, Nick, now 17, is made up to look like a zombie and pops out from underneath a table to startle the unsuspecting actor.
“I was pleased with the reaction because, honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get a reaction out of [Reedus],’’ the senior at Central Regional High School in Bayville, N.J., told TODAY.com. “He’s so used to seeing people made up as zombies all the time, but it worked out great. My goal is always to inspire and entertain, and I knew this one would be big.”
While a series of Vine videos and his latest prank with Reedus have made Nick an online star, those who know him will tell you there is much more to him than that. He is a wrestler on his high school team, a singer, a musician, and most of all, an inspiration to others. He has been that way since he was a young child, even appearing on TODAY at age 12, where he met up with his favorite player, former New York Giants star running back Tiki Barber.
“He lives by inspiring others not to sit idle,’’ his father said. “He can’t change who he is, but he’s not going to stop living because of that.”
Nick's latest adventure began when he and his parents were flown to Tokyo earlier this month by Fox International, which was launching a social media campaign to promote "The Walking Dead" in 125 countries. He joined forces with special effects guru Greg Nicotero, who designs the zombies for the show, and "Walking Dead" star Andrew Lincoln to give Reedus a scare that had him cursing before he gave Nick a good-natured hug for a job well done.
Nick spent two hours in makeup before springing into action to scare Reedus, who plays zombie apocalypse survivor Daryl Dixon on the show.
“He’s clearly a very inspiring young man and a 'Walking Dead' fan, so he was the perfect combination to launch the campaign with,’’ Alexandra Marinescu, vice president of marketing for Fox International Channels, told TODAY.com. “He’s all about inspiring people, disabled or not, and just spending time with him and his family, you can see he’s really committed to it.”
The video, which has been viewed more than 6 million times, is only the latest zombie prank from Nick. He came to the attention of Fox International because of a series of viral videos he had posted on Vine in November. His friends made him up in rudimentary zombie makeup and filmed him scaring unsuspecting shoppers in hilarious fashion at a Walmart near his home in Bayville.
In one video, an initially terrified woman smacks him with a roll of wrapping paper, and in another one, a man throws his shopping basket at him in shock. Nick said he was able to calm both of them down afterward. Reedus himself even promoted the videos on social media after "Walking Dead" fans brought them to his attention. Fans of the show also started a petition to get Nick on an episode.
“I got into Vine and thought, ‘What can I do that I would be best at?’’’ Nick said. “I wanted to do something that no one else could do, and I came up with a zombie. Some people were like, ‘That’s fake, I see his legs and his pants,’ and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’
"I did something that catches people’s attention, because you don’t really see people like me around.”
Nick is the youngest of four children, and his parents found out about possible complications with his birth when his mother, Stace, was in her third trimester.
“We figured, let nature take its course, and we would prepare our children for what their brother would be and put it in God’s hands,’’ Mike said.
Doctors told his parents that Nick was only the 12th case of Hanhart syndrome diagnosed in the world when he was born. Hanhart syndrome can cause an incompletely developed tongue, missing fingers and toes, malformed arms or legs and an extremely small jaw, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children may have some but not all of the symptoms, and the cause is not fully understood.
Nick’s father said eight of the 11 other people who had Hanhart syndrome when Nick was born have subsequently died, mainly from complications involving their heart, liver and lungs.
“I’ve never met anyone with [Hanhart syndrome],’’ Nick said. “Sometimes I wish I was normal, to be honest. Then I look at what I’m doing and how many people I’m inspiring, and I am pleased with what I’m doing. It’s just that everyone has their bad days now and then.”
From that moment he made it up on the table to dance to MTV at age 2, Nick has been on the move. He used a skateboard to get around while growing up, learned to play the drums, and has tried out seemingly every sport from football to dodgeball to Ping-Pong. He even went scuba diving a few years ago. He recently got his driver's license, and the family is in the process of modifying a car for him to use.
He also has become accustomed to the stares and whispers of strangers when they see him. He has prosthetic legs, but does not use them in public, saying "it just wouldn't be me." In school, he uses a wheelchair to get around the hallways.
“When I went to Japan [for the prank], everybody is so polite that even in a major city like Tokyo, I never got stared at or got dirty looks,’’ he said. “But here, it’s an everyday thing I go through. My friends hate it, but I don’t want them to get riled up. The stares, the comments, they go in as pain, but they come out as me trying to give other people strength.’’
After some prodding from friends and Central Regional head coach Chris Loveland, Nick came out for the wrestling team last season as a junior. As a sophomore, he had undergone a surgical procedure to trim the bone and add cushioning to his malformed right arm, where the bone was growing faster than the skin and creating a painful condition. The procedure allowed him to give wrestling a try without pain.
He wrestles in the 106-pound weight class while weighing only 85 pounds, the minimum allowed to compete by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. He weighs 20 pounds less than almost all of his opponents.
“Wrestling is a lesson,’’ Nick said. “I grew up with failure. Failure made me who I am, and in wrestling, there’s a lot of failure. I’ve had a lot of losses, but you just learn from it and get stronger. You realize who you are, and how strong you are, mentally and physically. It’s made me a better person.”
“He wrestles mainly by feel, and he gets mad when he thinks his opponent is letting him win,’’ Loveland told TODAY.com. “Last year, he won his first junior varsity match by decision with a nice takedown over another first-year wrestler. We’re high-fiving him and picking him up, and he’s like, ‘No way, he let me win, this is crap.’ The coach came over to me and was like, ‘I didn’t tell my kid to let up. Nick won the match.’’’
Nick’s only win on the varsity team this season has been via forfeit when an opponent had already clinched a victory. However, just avoiding getting pinned or battling an opponent to a decision is practically a win for him, because it helps the team and frustrates opponents. It also serves another purpose in Nick’s mind.
“I think people have respect for me because I do it, but I also do it because someone who doesn’t think they can wrestle will look at me and go, ‘Wow that kid has no legs and he’s wrestling, so let me try it,’’’ he said.
“When I’m having a bad day, I think, ‘Look at Nick, and he’s doing all this stuff,’’’ said wrestling teammate Nick Tomaio. “With how much he’s overcome just to come out for the team and do all the stuff in his life, I can work harder.”
Thanks to his newfound online fame, Nick also has gone from a curiosity at matches to somewhat of a local celebrity.
“He’s the talk of weigh-ins,’’ said Central senior teammate Dan Buhagiar. “Everyone’s like, ‘It’s Nick from Vine.' We’re like, ‘Yes, that’s him.’’’
And it's not just wrestling matches where he has become a center of attention Nick now gets stopped in the mall with friends, eating dinner out with his family and in the hallways at school.
“Some people that don’t know me in school will now say hi, and then there’s some people who say, ‘Oh, he’s just doing it for attention,’’’ Nick said. “I’m like, ‘I’m just living my life.’’’
With more followers as a result of the prank on Reedus, Nick takes his mission even more seriously now. He even had the word “inspire” tattooed down the left side of his torso last year. His parents will often walk into his room to find him in front of his webcam, talking online and encouraging someone struggling with disability or depression. He also has started doing motivational speaking.
“I attracted people in a different way, and now that I have my fan base, I can inspire in other ways,’’ Nick said. “I could talk about my life and inspire you, or I could also make you laugh at the same time.”
He admits the bar has been set high with the prank on Reedus, but rest assured: Nick is hard at work devising new ways to entertain.
“Nick is not somebody to sit on the sidelines, and never has been,’’ his father said. “He comes up with these little creative ways to get himself out there and try to live life to the fullest. He keeps us all wondering what he’s going to do next.”