Species of the Month - December 2017

 Candlesnuff Fungus

Xylaria hypoxylon

Xylaria hypoxylon   Xylaria hypoxylon

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.

Xylaria hypoxylon

Candlesnuff 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.

Xylaria hypoxylon

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.

Xylaria hypoxylon, fertile

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 either 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.

Xylaria hypoxylon

The Monarch of the Glen! - Jan's photo of Candlesnuff from our Appin field trip in 2013

Please send in your Candlesnuff Fungus sightings using the form below, or email sightings@lnhg.org.uk with the details if you prefer.  If you are not sure of the identity of your fungus, please send a photo to sightings@lnhg.org.uk, or put one on the LNHG Facebook page.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Any other details, e.g kind of wood it's growing on if known    


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
LNHG Biological Records Manager

Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here are the previous December species:

Dec 2016 - Willow Cabbage Gall
Dec 2014 - Giant Willow Aphid
Dec 2013 - Frilly-fruited Jelly Lichen
Dec 2012 - Dice Lichen
Dec 2011 - Red Squirrel

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This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage

All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer except where stated.  The 4th photo is © Sallie Jack and the 5th and 6th are © Jan Hamilton.  Mouse over photos to see credits.