What You Should Know
Xylaria longipes is a type of fungus that you can find on hardwood trees like beech and sycamore stumps. It looks like dark, club-shaped, or cylindrical growths with a black, warty surface that narrows into a brownish-black stem. When it's young, it's soft and pale gray with pinkish tips.
This fungus is not for eating, but it has some interesting uses. A study in 2008 found that it could be used to improve wood for making violins. Also, some useful chemicals have been derived from it, like an antifungal substance called xylaramide, an antioxidant called tyrosol, and a derivative of the antifungal compound sordarin.
You might come across Xylaria longipes throughout the year in the northeastern and midwestern United States on hardwood sticks and logs. It tends to have longer stems compared to other similar species, but that's not always a reliable way to identify it. To be sure, look for its medium-sized, club-shaped head and spores with spiraling germ slits.
In its natural habitat, it often looks like finger-like structures, which contain the flasks where the spores are produced. These small, black, compound fruitbodies are known as "flask fungi," and they can be tricky to spot in dark woodlands.
As far as I know, the only other name for Xylaria longipes is Xylosphaera longipes (Nitschke) Dennis.
Other names: Dead Moll's Fingers, German (Langstielige Ahorn-Holzkeule, Langstielige Holzkeule, Schlanke Holzkeule).
Xylaria longipes Mushroom Identification
The fruiting body of this mushroom is usually 0.79 to 2.76 inches (2 to 7 cm) tall and 0.20 to 0.59 inches (0.5 to 1.5 cm) thick. It looks like a club with a rounded tip. When young, it's grayish to brownish, but it becomes dark brown to black as it matures. The surface often gets cracked and scaly with age. In mature specimens, you might find spherical perithecia (tiny reproductive structures) just below the surface, measuring up to about 1 millimeter across.
The stem can be long in proportion to the cap, but it can also be short or nearly absent. The stem is black and may have black to rusty brown or reddish fuzz near the base.
Inside, the flesh is white and tough.
This mushroom does not have a distinctive odor.
This mushroom is typically found on decaying hardwood logs and sticks, especially those from beech and maple trees. It grows directly from the wood and can be seen from spring through fall. This mushroom is found in Europe, Asia, and North America. In Europe, it prefers sycamore wood, while in North America, it's often found on maple and beech wood. This mushroom can grow alone or in groups, but it's more commonly found growing alone compared to another similar mushroom called X. polymorpha.
The spores of this mushroom are 12–16 x 5–6 micrometers in size and have a fusiform (bean-shaped) shape. They are smooth and appear brown with small droplets when viewed in a special solution (KOH) or water. These spores have a thin, pale, spiraling germ slit that runs the length of the spore. The asci (structures that hold and release spores) contain eight spores each.
Xylaria longipes Look-Alikes
Alike in appearance but significantly larger and typically lacking a distinct stem.
Xylaria longipes Taxonomy and Etymology
Xylaria longipes is a type of fungus discovered by a German botanist and mycologist named Theodor Rudolph Joseph Nitschke in 1867. The name Xylaria comes from Latin words that mean "wood" and "pertaining to," while longipes refers to its long stem, which distinguishes it from another fungus called Xylaria polymorpha. In 1958, an English mycologist named R. W. G. Dennis proposed a different name for it, Xylosphaera longipes, but this name is not widely accepted.
In 1989, a variety of Xylaria longipes called Xylaria longipes var. tropica was described in Mexico. Some databases consider it the same as the main variety, while others treat it as a separate taxonomic entity.
The scientific name Xylaria longipes, given by Nitschke, is the accepted name for this fungus. The only other known synonym for it is Xylosphaera longipes, as proposed by Dennis.
The name "longipes" refers to the long stalks beneath the fertile clubs of the fungus.
Xylaria longipes Video
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