For example, this last week, I have taken an interest in strange black spikes which have appeared along the trail behind my house. If the trillium or bleeding heart were in bloom now, I might have trampled right over these newcomers. Perhaps that is why we have distinct seasons. So we can take time to appreciate other things.
With some difficulty, I was able to come up with a little information about these antler-like protrusions. What I found out is, they are from a genus of fungi which includes around 100 species called Xylaria. Going by pictures alone, I was unable to make a definitive determination on the species since the photos had a wide range of differences, and none looked exactly like the fungi that I encountered. However, the closest match seemed to be Xylaria hypoxylon, which is commonly known as candle-snuff fungus or stag’s horn.
These erect woody fruiting bodies (stromas) are black, with white on the top of some spikes, which look as if they have been coated with powdered sugar. The white is asexual spores (conidas). So far, the fungi behind my house have grown to no more than one and a quarter inches high. I have only located this fungus at the base of dead alder roots which are just above ground level. Most of the fruiting bodies I have seen appear as a single spike, but some are forked.
Most of the species of Xylaria have a broad range worldwide, but only exist in habitats which are suitable for their growth.