The ‘Dead Man’s Fingers’ Fungus looks as creepy as it sounds

Mother Earth can truly surprise us in many ways – just look at these giant bats or these angry-looking ‘snakes’ spotted lurking in a tree.

When Regan Daniels, a resident of North Carolina, shared a series of photographs of something resembling a deceased person’s toes on the Facebook group Mushroomcore, her images quickly spread like wildfire.

And when you look closer at the pictures, it’s easy to see why.

Not a Halloween decoration, nor remnants of an old murder scene.

When Regan Daniels was out walking in Western North Carolina in June 2020, she stumbled upon something that made her come to a halt. She picked up her camera and captured the peculiar sight she encountered, uploading the pictures to a Facebook group called Mushroomcore.

Regan Daniels

The 30,000 members in the group are used to seeing stunning images and remarkable details from the forest – but Regan’s photograph stood out from the rest. So, what did she come across?

Well, Regan had photographed a fungus known as Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha). With its swollen, blackened “fingers” stretching towards the sky, the Dead Man’s Fingers aptly earn their name as they eerily resemble someone buried beneath the forest floor, making a desperate final attempt to break free.

“Saw this Dead Man’s Fingers (or toes in this case) fungus that I literally thought was a Halloween decoration!,” Regan wrote in her post.

Regan Daniels

The appearance is both striking and unique, but the fact is that this fungus is relatively common and can be found all year round. These type of mushrooms are quite prevalent in Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe, and various regions across North America. Hence, it’s not impossible to come across swollen, warty ‘fingers’ if you are observant.

If you want to discover them, look on stumps or buried deadwood of broadleaved trees, especially beech. The fungus only invades dead or dying wood – that’s why Dead Man’s Fingers are often seen poking up through moss and rotten leaves.

According to First-Nature, the fungus isn’t generally considered edible.

Regan Daniels stumbled upon the macabre-looking clusters of Xylaria polymorpha in a park she often visits in North Carolina.

They were emerging from a stump, surrounded by a cluster of other mushrooms of the same kind. Some were quick to label the images as fake, finding them simply too surreal. However, the mushrooms are indeed very real, and there are numerous captivating pictures of them available online.

“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.”

The examples that Reagan found looked very intact – even though she was walking on a pretty popular location. However, it might not be surprising since few people may dare to pick it, possibly perceiving it as toxic or potentially harmful.

And would you ever consider tasting a fungus resembling a dead man’s toes?