Despite appearances, a photographer didn’t stumble onto the remains of an unlucky hiker crushed by a falling tree — the “dead man’s fingers” seen clutching timber in Ohio is actually a macabre mushroom.
Josh Doty, who goes by @nature_treasure_hunter on Instagram, came across the spooky fungus while exploring an undisclosed stretch of Ohio forest, and it’s grabbing attention.
“Oh, this is wonderful and gruesome,” one person commented on Facebook.
“Glad I didn’t find them, I would have called the crime scene investigation,” another said.
One user claimed they had seen these fingers before: “That’s the same monster that tries to grab my feet when it’s hanging off the bed!”
Xylaria polymorphia, better known as “dead man’s fingers,” tends to grow at the base of rotting trees and stumps where it feeds on the decaying wood, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Often it starts growing at the root system, and over time its fingers reach out from the dirt like a zombie digging to the surface.
“This is an eerie, unusual-looking mushroom — there is nothing quite like it,” the wildlife officials said.
As the fungus grows, it turns from white to black and sprouts “fingers” over the summer months, which become increasingly “grotesque” until the start of autumn when they “dry and look like something from a cat’s litter box,” according to the department.
This isn’t an appealing mushroom at any stage of its life cycle, but that didn’t stop some from wondering if they could eat it.
“OK cool, but does anyone know what they actually taste like?” one comment asked.
“They don’t look finger-lickin good that’s for sure,” said another.
While dead man’s fingers aren’t poisonous, they are not considered edible, experts say.