Woody clubs, cramp balls and relatives

Amongst the largest of the Ascomycetes, these fungi are common on fallen wood in New Zealand's forests. Their fruiting bodies are hard and woody, narrow and upright in Xylaria, hemisphaerical in Daldinia, and flat across the substrate in Hypoxylon. Most are black, although some have dark brown or purple colours, and a few are more brightly coloured. Close inspection of the surface of the fruiting body reveals small, dark spots. These are the openings of the perithecia (the stuctures within which spores are formed) which form a continuous layer immediately beneath the surface of the fruiting body. The spores are very dark and they sometimes gather in masses on the surface, so that they come away as a black powder when handled. Xylaria has sterile white tissue internally beneath the perithecia, Daldinia has concentric bands in the internal tissue, while Hypoxylon has either uniformly dark tissue, or the fruiting bodies are very thin with internal sterile tissue more or less lacking. Efficient decomposers of fallen wood, causing a white rot. These fungi live as both saprobes and endophytes. The saprobes fruit on long-fallen wood, while the endophytes are found on the bark of recently fallen twigs and branches. The endophytic species invisibly inhabit the living bark of their hosts before they die. As soon as the wood dies the fungus grows out and produces fruiting bodies and spores. Genera not treated here include Rosellinia (fruting bodies small, comprising single perithecia), Biscogniauxia (flat fruiting bodies, initially covered with bark, this covering layer remains overlapping the edge of the fruiting body), and Nemania (small, partly immersed fruiting bodies, in soft, rotten wood).


NameImageDescriptionNZFungi Entry


Woody, large, hemispherical, dark brown to black fruititng bodies (sometimes pale brown when young). Internally the flesh is patterned with concentric bands. The are at least three species in New Zealand, although the name Daldinia concentrica (not present in New Zealand) has often been used incorrectly in the past.


Hypoxylon is common in New Zealand forests, with more than 20 species recorded. The fruiting bodies are typically flat and crust like. Some are black or with dull colours, but the exceptions, such as the bright orange H. cinnabarinum, the purple H. nothofagi, and the hemispherical, purple H. howeanum, are those most often noticed.


Xylaria is characterised by upright fruiting bodies, black on the outside, with white flesh inside. Xylaria castorea, a very common species, has irregularly-shaped fruiting bodies, often flattened and paddle-shaped.
Saprobic on fallen wood and dead leaves. Xylaria hypoxylon (one of several species with a small, pointed, sterile apex) is typically found on wood in running...