These Fingers Look Very Scary

Regan Daniels from North Carolina captured a photo of a peculiar sight while walking in Western North Carolina in June 2020. She shared the photo on a Facebook group dedicated to mushrooms and forest details, and it quickly went viral due to its eerie resemblance to a dead man’s leg. However, upon closer inspection, it was revealed to be a fungus called Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha).

The fungus gets its name from its swollen, blackened “fingers” that stretch towards the sky, resembling someone buried beneath the forest floor attempting to break free. While the appearance is striking and unique, Dead Man’s Fingers are relatively common and can be found throughout the year. They are prevalent in Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe, and various regions in North America.

To spot them, one should look on stumps or buried deadwood of broadleaved trees, particularly beech. Dead Man’s Fingers only invade dead or dying wood, which is why they often emerge through moss and rotten leaves. Regan Daniels discovered these macabre-looking clusters of Xylaria polymorpha in a park she frequently visits in North Carolina. They were emerging from a stump surrounded by other mushrooms of the same kind.

Despite the popularity of the location, the mushrooms remained intact, possibly because people may perceive them as toxic or potentially harmful. The photos initially sparked disbelief and were deemed surreal by some viewers, but they are indeed real and numerous captivating pictures of them can be found online.

Regan described the park as a pleasant place with beautiful scenery next to the French Broad River. Her viral photo of the Dead Man’s Fingers fungus highlighted the fascinating and sometimes eerie wonders found in nature, reminding people of the hidden marvels waiting to be discovered.

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