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Group of Fungi: Flask Fungi
Latin Name: Xylaria polymorpha (Pers.) Grev.
Common Name: Dead Manís Fingers
Description: Club-like structure, cylindrical to somewhat irregular in shape, 3/4–4 in (2–10 cm) tall and 3/8–1 in (1–2.5 cm thick), powdery white to dirty white when young but becoming black when mature, surface crust-like and often cracked; stalk short, stout, cylindrical; spores dark brown to black in mass.
Biological Role: Decomposer of wood.
Habitat: On decaying logs and stumps of broadleaf trees; usually occurring in clusters.
Geographical Distribution: Widely distributed throughout North America.
Comments: Xylaria polymorpha is rather variable in shape and not all fruiting bodies have the fingerlike appearance that is the basis of the common name. The Latin name ("polymorpha" literally means having many forms) reflects this morphological variability. When a fruiting body is broken apart, the pure white interior is revealed.