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Xylaria is a genus of ascomycetous fungi commonly found growing on dead wood. The name comes from the Greek xýlon meaning wood (see xylem).

Two of the common species of the genus are Xylaria hypoxylon and Xylaria polymorpha.

Xylaria hypoxylon, known by the common names stag's horn and candle-snuff fungus, is the most conspicuous because of its erect, 3–7 cm tall, antler-like ascocarps (fruitbodies) which are black at the base (where the perithecia are embedded) but white and branched towards the top, where the fruiting bodies produce white conidia (asexual spores).

Xylaria polymorpha, dead man's fingers, often grows in finger-like clusters from the base of a tree or from wood just below ground level. This is a primary fungus utilized in the spalting of sugar maple and other hardwoods.

Xylaria longipes, known by the common names dead moll's fingers and pénis de bois mort, allegedly improves the quality of the wood used in string instruments. It has not been linked to spalting of maple.



  • Deacon, J. Fungal Biology. Blackwell Publishing. 2005.
  • Robinson, S. C. and P. E. Laks. 2010. Culture age and wood species affect zone line production of Xylaria polymorpha. The Open Mycology Journal 4:18-21.
  • Robinson, S. C., et al. 2012. Promoting fungal pigment formation in wood by utilizing a modified decay jar method. Wood Science and Technology 46:841-849.
  • Robinson, S. C., et al. Methods of inoculating Acer spp., Populus tremuloides, and Fagus grandifolia logs for commercial spalting applications. Journal of Wood Science in press. doi:10.1007/s10086-013-1335-5



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