Candlesnuff: Xylaria hypoxylon


With Christmas close by, it is appropriate to mention candles but this is not a real candle but a fungus that is supposed to resemble a spent candle wick. Because the upright, black fungus branches at the tips it is also called carbon antlers or, more rarely, though perhaps more graphically, dead man’s fingers. But back to facts.

This is a common fungus that grows on dead wood. It is a fungus that does  not attack ‘raw’ wood but moves in once the wood has started to decompose. When it has finished it leaves the wood soft and spongy. Because of this it is common to see these black and white fruiting bodies pushing up through moss-covered stumps. Although it can grow on a wide range of trees, it is more common on broad-leaved trees and it is found throughout Europe and America. My specimen was on an oak barrel that was planted with conifers for many years and that had to be emptied.

The scientific name Xylaria is from ‘wood’ (xylem is a conducting tissue in stems) and hypoxylon means ‘below the wood’.

The name ‘candlesnuff’ is probably derived from the appearance of the fruiting part of the fungus but, apparently, it is also bioluminescent, not something that I noticed, and it is very faint. The bodies are single and club-shaped when young but they branch at the tips as they age and are covered in white. Although not officially poisonous, they are tough and woody and not very palatable though I am sure some chef will find a way to use them, probably in a trifle, eventually!

This pretty little fungus can be found all year round but is especially noticeable in autumn and winter and grows to about 4cm high. Some little twigs with candlesnuff perched on them would be nice with some dried leaves and cones to add to your Christmas decorations.


, , ,

One Comment on “Candlesnuff: Xylaria hypoxylon”

  1. derrickjknight
    December 22, 2016 at 12:12 pm #


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews


un altro blog sul giardinaggio...


four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!


Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to save garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow


An English persons experience of living and gardening in Ireland

%d bloggers like this: