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Xylaria hypoxylon

[ Ascomycota > Sordariomycetes > Xylariales > Xylariaceae > Xylaria . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Xylaria hypoxylon is extremely variable in appearance, featuring a fruiting body that can be narrowly cylindric and pointed, or cylindric below but branched and flattened above, somewhat reminiscent of tiny moose antlers. Both fruiting body types (along with variations) regularly appear together in the same place. The upper portion is initially powdery and whitish, but eventually becomes hardened, black, and pimply, representing the transition from anamorph to teleomorph. In both stages, and regardless of the overall shape of the fruiting body, the apex is usually attenuated and sterile (not covered with whitish powder or, later, not pimply).

A DNA study of "Xylaria hypoxylon" collections from around the globe (Peršoh et al. 2009) revealed several phylogenetically distinct species, some of which were not even particularly closely related. More recently, Stadler and collaborators (2014) fixed the concept of what constitutes the "real" Xylaria hypoxylon by designating type collections of the species from Sweden (a necessity since the species was first named by Linnaeus and later sanctioned by Fries, from Sweden). A combination of misidentifications and potential cryptic species appears to account for other versions of Xylaria hypoxylon. The researchers emphasize the importance of studying mature, sexual (teleomorphic) specimens to avoid misidentifications.

Evidence so far supports the presence of the true Xylaria hypoxylon in Europe and the West Coast of the United States, in temperate climates but not subtropical and tropical areas. Eastern North American collections may represent Xylaria vasconica (Fournier et al. 2010), a closely related but recently named species that does not usually develop "antlers," or Xylaria longiana.

Thanks to Mila Visser 't Hooft for documenting, collecting, and preserving Xylaria hypoxylon for study; her collection is deposited in The Herbarium of Michael Kuo.


Ecology: Saprobic on the deadwood of hardwoods; growing gregariously to densely gregariously; spring through fall; by strict definitions (see discussion above) distributed in Europe and the West Coast of the United States, but (mis)reported as widely distributed in North America from Canada through Mexico—and in Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The illustrated and described collections are from California.

Anamorphic Fruiting Body: 2–10 cm long; 2–15 mm thick; either narrowly cylindric, with a pointy apex—or cylindric below but branched and flattened above, appearing somewhat like moose antlers, with tapering points on most branches; surface black and slightly fuzzy below, but powdery and gray to nearly white above; extreme apex attenuated, whitish to yellowish, and bald; sometimes with a rooting, black, stem-like structure; interior flesh white and tough.

Teleomorphic Fruiting Body: Shaped like the anamorphic fruiting body; surface black, bald, and finely pimply.

Odor: Not distinctive.

Microscopic Features: Conidia 5–11 x 2–3 µm; fusiform; smooth; hyaline in water and in KOH. Spores 13–16 x 5–6 µm; subfusoid to subellipsoid; smooth; brown to dark brown in water, with a single, straight germ slit extending the length of the spore. Asci 8-spored.

REFERENCES: (Linnaeus, 1753) R. K. Greville, 1824. (Arora, 1966; Rogers, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Barron, 1999; McNeil, 2006; Medel et al., 2008; Rogers, Miller & Vasilyeva, 2008; Peršoh et al., 2009; Trudell & Ammirati, 2009; Medel et al., 2010; Desjardin, Wood & Stevens, 2015; Siegel & Schwarz, 2016; Woehrel & Light, 2017; Becerril-Navarrete et al., 2018; Elliott & Stephenson, 2018.) Herb. Kuo 01141804, 02042001.

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Xylaria hypoxylon

Xylaria hypoxylon

Xylaria hypoxylon

Xylaria hypoxylon

Xylaria hypoxylon
Sterile apices

Xylaria hypoxylon

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Kuo, M. (2020, July). Xylaria hypoxylon. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: