Dead Man’s Fingers Fungus

I’ll bet you’re thinking this blog is about a disease, and maybe a “yucky” one at that. Nope . . . not even close! This is all about another type of fungus—mushrooms.

Mushrooms are a culinary delight, including such wonderful treats as morel mushrooms and truffles. Even the more common, and much less expensive, varieties are welcome additions to many recipes.

Care must be taken, however, to stay away from some of the deadly varieties, such as those I wrote about in a previous blog. Some varieties can be used, and are often abused, for their hallucinogenic effects. I’ve described those in another blog.

There is a most interesting variety of mushroom that reeks of death. However, it’s not deadly to humans. It’s commonly called “Dead Man’s Fingers.” The technical name for this fungus is Xylaria polymorpha.

Although this fungus can resemble the fingers of a corpse reaching out from the earth, it’s not a zombie clawing its way out of a grave. It does have deadly properties, however, only not to humans. Dead Man’s Fingers are fungi growing out of decaying wood—stumps or logs of dead, buried trees—that continue the decay process to rot wood.

In fact, this attribute has several beneficial purposes. The Dead Man’s Fingers fungi are nature’s sanitation to rid forests of dead tree wood. These fungi are also used to increase the acoustic ability of woods used to make violins. Raw violin wood is inoculated with the Xylaria fungi to cause a certain degree of wood decay, thereby decreasing the wood’s density. After a time, the fungus is killed with ethylene oxide to prevent further wood rot and this creates the beautiful sounds of a violin.

Although this fungus is indigenous to the regions of Nepal, Bhutan and Northeastern India, it can be seen in the United States where it attacks apple, maple, beech and elm trees as well as a variety of ornamental shrubs to destroy home landscapes.

The colors of these interesting fungi vary from white to blue to black at different stages in their life cycle. When young, they are pale in color, almost white, and they vary from that whitish color to a pale blue as they grow. When this variety of mushroom continues to age, the bluish color deepens all the way to black before the fungus dries out and dies.

In China, younger blue fungi are often cooked and eaten; but, as the fungi age, they are considered not edible because they become hard to digest. At that point, most Dead Man’s Finger Fungi are used as decorations or garnish, instead.

I don’t consider this fungus lethal in any way to humans, but it can make for an interesting plot twist if used in a setting where it might appear that human remains are reaching out from the grave. I’ll have to figure out a way to use this in one of my storylines. What about you?

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About Interesting Mushrooms, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, All About Mushrooms, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Blue Fungi, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Dead Man's Finger Fungi, Dead Man's Fingers, Deadly Fungal Attacks, Deadly Mushrooms, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Fungi and Violin Wood, Hallucinogenic Drugs, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Event and Ideas Develop into Short Stories, James J. Murray Blog, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Lethal Botanicals, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Mushrooms That Kill Trees, Mushrooms That Rot Wood, New Blog, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Poisonous Plants, Prescription For Murder Blog, Unique Lethal Compounds, Unique Murder Plots, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dead Man’s Fingers Fungus

  1. Ominous looking indeed, and ain interesting read.

  2. magicquill17 says:

    Wow. They look creepy; clearly deserving of their name. And that was interesting- that fact about violins.
    Fascinating piece of knowledge. Thank you for sharing this.

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