Dead Man’s Fingers

I joined my local Natural History Society when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was full of retired men who wore brogues and tweed jackets and smoked stinking pipes. They had attic conversions to hold their moth collections, wrote academic papers on gnats, or subscribed to obscure journals on fungi.

Today it seems perfectly natural to me to be a member of the Devon Fungus Group. To many other people that must seem deeply strange. There’s such a tragic disconnect between many people and the natural world.

Here’s a strange fungus, Xylaria polymorpha, known as Dead Man’s Fingers in an ancient book illustration. My fellow natural history society members would have loved it:

Dead Man's Fingers - The Hall of Einar

And here’s a real live specimen from this week, growing in Devon.

Dead Man's Fingers - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

That would have thrilled them too.

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