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The Buzz

Freaky Fungus of the Week: Dead Man's Fingers




(Photo by Matt Ruhter)

It's that time of year when all sorts of fungi are popping up in the preserves or, in this case, seemingly crawling out of the ground.

If you look in the right spots, you may find some Dead Man's Fingers, which are exactly what you'd expect based on the name.

These super creepy mushrooms can be a variety of colors when they first form, ranging from light blue, purple or gray. It's at this point that the "fingers" have white tips, resembling that of fingernails.

It grows either alongside or on top of tree roots, which can be the perfect combination for giving people the heebie jeebies.

For example:

As the fingers mature, they'll begin to darken, transitioning to brown, before turning black. Much like an actual finger — dead or simply old — the wrinkles on the flesh will begin to crack with age.

They'll generally max out at about four inches long, but they do come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are long and thin, while others are short and stubby.

(Photo by Suzy Lyttle)

In addition to the appearance, Dead Man's Fingers also are unique because while many mushrooms live only a few days, this one can live for months or even years.

It's inedible due to its extremely tough flesh that has a very durable carbon-like crust. Its inedibility probably is a good thing, because even if you're a huge fan of mushrooms, do you really want to be known as the person who happily eats a Dead Man's Finger? 

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