The fruiting bodies of the Xylaria hypoxylon are quite commonly found on hardwood stumps and logs – these ones were working away at rotting down moss-covered stumps at the Wappenbury and Old Nun Wood reserves in Warwickshire – both under the ownership and management of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
The most common names for this fungi is candlesnuff fungus. There are some who argue that this relates to the fact that they are slightly bioilluminescent but the alternative argument – that the black and grey appearance looks rather like a snuffed candle-wick – seems more plausible. Carbon antlers is another common name of this species.
In the autumn, the upper ‘antlers’ of the fungus are covered in white spores which can remain through the winter. In the springtime, the fungus can still be found but instead producing black spores – these black spores are sexual whilst the white autumn spores are asexual.
The hazy white cloud in the photograph below is the mass of spores released when the fungus was lightly tapped – just imagine how many progeny this single specimen could produce!