Species of the Month - December 2017
Easy to find and easy to recognise, Candlesnuff fungus grows on dead wood that has begun to rot. It occurs on stumps, fallen branches, logs and the remains of wooden posts. It is normally on wood from broadleaved trees but is occasionally seen on conifer wood. Sometimes, as in the photo above, it appears to be growing directly on the ground, but if you root around you'll find it's attached to some wood just below the surface, a buried gorse branch in the this case.
can be found all year round but is most often recorded in winter.
The fruitbodies normally occur in groups, and are black below, white
above. Occasionally they are white nearly all the way to the base,
like some of those in the above photo. They are often branched
giving the appearance of antlers.
Sometimes the fruitbodies are unbranched, like the two on the right in
Sallie Jack's photo from our Duror fungal foray in 2012, but they can
still be confidently identified if they are the right sort of thickness,
about 1-5 mm wide near the base, flattening out in the upper half.
Also there will normally be some nearby that are at least slightly
branched, like the one on the left. Xylaria polymorpha (Dead Man's
Fingers) and X longipes (Dead Moll's Fingers) are stouter and well
rounded at the tip, without any branching or spiky appearance.
They don't normally have a white coating, but they can do.
Candlesnuff is occasionally found without any white coating. This happens when the fruitbody has matured to its sexual state, and is dotted with spore-producing perithecia, visible in Jan Hamilton's photo above from our 2016 LNHG field trip to Strone Hill woods. This state is not common in X hypoxylon, from which I conclude that eiither most fruitbodies never mature, or if they do they decay soon afterwards. X longipes and X polymorpha, by contrast, are nearly always found in their all-black state. The specimen above is easily recognised as X hypoxylon due to its branching and non-rounded tips. In the field it could also be recognised by its narrow dimensions.
The white coating which
normally adorns Candlesnuff produces asexual spores called conidia.
The Monarch of the Glen! - Jan's photo of Candlesnuff from our Appin field trip in 2013
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