What is this black-chile-looking thing?

yardvaarkJanuary 27, 2014

Since I am in Florida, I will start here. While weeding a perennial peanut bed today, I came across a small (4" x 10") patch of these things clustered together. They were arranged so as to point upward, about 1 1/2 to 2" apart. I didn't dig down in an attempt to trace roots. They are hard, woody, on the dry side and as you can see, black. Insides are white. The two larger ones illustrate the above ground portion. Never saw them before and wondering if anyone knows what they are. ??

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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

A fungus among us?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:35AM
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With time to do a little more searching, I find that it is in fact a fungus, Xylaria polymorpha, with the common name, "dead man's fingers." So appropriate! ... they looking like ancient mummy fingers. Apparently, it feeds on subterranean dead wood which makes sense here as there is a line of holly stumps from an old hedge in the vicinity. This means that it is entirely harmless to my landscaping purposes ... what I was concerned about, fearing any difficult weed infiltration or infestation. While it looks fungi-like, its hard woodiness made it seem nothing like any of the ordinary fungi that crop up in a typical yard. It has a pronounced mild, but strange scent. That, coupled with its appearance makes is seem like something that would be finely ground and put in a genuine witch's brew! Apparently, since it is black, I am catching it in its late stage. I read that in its earlier stage it can be some variation of bluish-greyish-green. In general, I comb the area where it is, looking for the tiniest of weeds, many times on hands and knees, so it has remained well hidden, apparently, for some length of time.

FWIW, Near the same area, yesterday, next to a sweet potato vine, I found embedded in the soil surface a Russett-potato-like looking thing ... about 2 1/2" length x 1 1/2" diameter. Since I have never dug down and explored what any possible sweet potato might actually look like, I guessed that maybe I was looking at it. I pried it up to take a closer look and found that the exposed skin portion was decomposing ... likely due to the light frost we had a few days ago. I tossed it back to near where It came from. Today, I discovered that the "potato" was really an "egg." It had "hatched" a mushroom which, since I had unearthed it, was lying on its side. I wish I had known this was coming. Due to its size, I think it could have been observed while actually performing the process. I picked it up to take a closer look and readily noticed it had a pronounced, unpleasant scent. I deposited it on a picnic table for later, more in-depth examination, and went inside. A while later I opened the door to go outside and was IMMEDIATELY struck with the foul odor of this thing! It was really bad, smelling up the whole area. It had a slight semen-ish smell, but with an additional component of very strong industrial chemical odor, which I am at a loss to describe. See it below.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:56PM
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Stinkhorn fungus, I had a few, too. Foul almost carrion-like smell.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:12PM
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That is an apt name to an exponential power. I didn't notice the smell being cadaver-like, but it was certainly foul and POTENT. It could be smelled 30 or more feet away. Later, away from it, I'm still getting a periodic phantom whiff of it. It has to have military potential.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:51PM
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