Club, Coral & Fan Fungi

This page features "clavarioid" fungi which are colloquially called club or coral fungi. Here, they are separated into branched corals and unbranched corals, some of which are club-like. 

Branched Coral
White Coral Fungus (Clavulina coralloides)
Grey Coral Fungus (Clavulina cinerea)
Crown-tipped Coral (Artomyces pyxidatus)
Ramariopsis kunzei
Violet Coral Fungus (Clavaria zollingeri)
Ramaria spp.

Club Fungi and Unbranched Corals
Fairy Hair (Macrotyphula juncea)
Fairy Fingers or White Worm Coral (Clavaria fragilis)
White Green-algae Coral (Multiclavula mucida)
Golden Spindles (Clavulinopsis fusiformis)
Handsome Club (Clavulinopsis laeticolor)
Flat-topped Coral or Sweet Coral (Clavariadelphus truncatus)
Ochre Jelly Club or Jelly Babies (Leotia lubrica)
Microglossum viride
Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)
Velvet-foot Fairy Fan (Spathulariopsis velutipes)

 

Branched Corals


White Coral Fungus (Clavulina coralloides)

Notes: syn. Clavulina cristata

Habitat & Ecology: mycorrhizal; on the ground, on humus; coniferous or mixed forest; summer and fall

Branches: repeatedly branched, form is variable, sometimes with very irregular branching and sometimes unbranched

Tips: “cristate” – feathery or toothed; flattened near apex

Texture & color: smooth or knobby surface; white, cream, or pinkish tan; flesh white and fragile

Stem or base: stem smooth and gray/black when parasitized by Helminthoshaeria clavarium

Flesh: odor not distinctive

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: This species is often parasitized by a fungus that turns it grey-black, attacking from the bottom up. This can make it look like the Grey Coral (C. cinerea). The distinction can be made if the grey coloring is lighter near the base than the branches.

Grey Coral Fungus (Clavulina cinerea)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: mycorrhizal; on the ground; coniferous or mixed forest; summer and fall

Branches: repeatedly branched, irregular, looking tangled 

Tips: pointed or blunt, often forked 

Texture & color: smooth; ash-grey maybe tinted purple; flesh white and fragile

Stem or base: fleshy trunk if present

Flesh: odor not distinctive 

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: White Coral Fungus (Clavulina coralloides) is whiter unless it is parasitized by Helminthoshaeria clavarium, a fungus that turns it grey-black, attacking from the bottom up.

Crown-tipped Coral (Artomyces pyxidatus)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; on wood; deciduous logs or other woody debris, especially willows, poplars, aspens, maples, and tulip trees; spring, summer, fall

Branches: repeatedly branched and cylindrical

Tips: crown or cup-shaped tips (4-8 of them)

Texture & color: smooth; off-white, turning brown with age; flesh white and tough

Stem or base: colored as branches and with fine hairs

Flesh: odor smells faintly of raw potatoes

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: 

Ramariopsis kunzei

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; on the ground on buried wood or well-decayed logs; summer and fall

Branches: profusely branched

Tips: blunt tips

Texture & color: smooth surface; white and turning pink-tan with age; flesh white and fragile

Stem or base: inconspicuous stem, finely fuzzy when present and becoming pink-yellow

Smell: not distinctive

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: Lacks the cup-shaped tips of the Crown-tipped Coral (Artomyces pyxidatus) and the feathery tips of White Coral Fungus (Clavulina coralloides).

See.. Jellied False Coral (Tremellodendron schweinitzii) which is chalky and does not have as defined branches that reach up like true corals.

See Helminthosphaeria clavarianum parasitic fungi that use White Coral Fungus (Clavulina coralloides) as a host.

Violet Coral Fungus (Clavaria zollingeri)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; in moss; deciduous forest, especially oaks and hickories; summer and fall

Branches: thick, cylindrical branches like antlers; branches share a common base and are not very crowded

Tips: rounded and irregular

Texture & color: smooth; purple; flesh purple and fragile

Stem or base:

Smell: maybe radishlike

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: Clavulina amethystina is a European species; Clavulina amethystinoides is a more muted purple, less branched, and with a bumpy surface; Alloclavaria purpurea is a dull purple, unbranched, clustered and in coniferous forests.

Ramaria spp.

Notes: East Coast and Midwest species are undescribed – Ramaria spp. are indicators of highly ecologically valued forests

Habitat & Ecology: uncertain if mycorrhizal or saprophytic; on coniferous or sometimes deciduous wood, but may be buried, appearing to come out of the ground; early summer and fall 

Branches: branches vertically straight and parallel; compact and sometimes branched

Tips: tips fine and yellow

Texture & color: yellow buff; white flesh, bruising purplish, brown when held 

Stem or base: poorly developed, fleshy stalk connected to white rhizomorphs (thick mycelial cords)

Smell: sweetish

Spore print: rusty yellow 

Chemical reactions (via Mushroomexpert.com): Iron salts green on branches

Look-alikes: 

See Hen of the Woods or Maitake (Grifola frondosa) which is a bracket fungi that grows at the base of oak trees and has a coral-like arrangement.

Club Fungi and Unbranched Corals 

Fairy Hair (Macrotyphula juncea)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; in groups on litter in coniferous and deciduous forest; summer and fall

Form Description: upright, very slender clubs often bent or curved; dry and smooth; light-colored brown

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: 

Fairy Fingers or White Worm Coral (Clavaria fragilis)

Notes: synonym Clavaria vermicularis

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; clustered on moist soil or moss; coniferous or deciduous trees; summer and fall

Form Description: unbranched and cylindrical, stands upright and usually wavy; cluster fused at base; white, turning yellow with age; fragile flesh; tips rounded or pointed, and can be branched but not often

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: 

White Green-algae Coral (Multiclavula mucida)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; on wet, barkless wood covered in green-algae or green-algae-covered bare soil; late summer to fall

Form Description: large clusters of tiny spindles, usually tapering to a browned point; can be forked or branched at the tips; white or off-white; dry, waxy flesh

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: Multiclavula vernalis is another northeastern species but is larger and has an inflated, orange cap with a defined, white stem.

Golden Spindles (Clavulinopsis fusiformis)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; on the ground; coniferous or deciduous forest, sometimes in grassy places; summer and fall

Form Description: clustered/fused at the base; can be a little branched at base; smooth or wrinkly and often with a groove or flattened; bright orange; fragile flesh, becoming hollow; tips somewhat point

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: Handsome Club (Clavulinopsis laeticolor) is smaller, has a defined yellow stem, and is not usually in tight clusters.

Handsome Club (Clavulinopsis laeticolor)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; grows alone or in loose clusters on the ground and on mossy logs; coniferous or deciduous forest; summer and fall

Form Description: unbranched and only a few centimeters tall; dry surface; bright orange but can fade; wrinkled or grooved; very fragile! 

Spore print: white

Look-alikes: Golden Spindles (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) is larger and grows in tight clusters.

Flat-topped Coral or Sweet Coral (Clavariadelphus truncatus)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: mycorrhizal; on the ground under conifers; late summer to fall

Form Description: flattened or depressed top; surface smooth and wrinkly; color ranges from pinkish brown to orange-brown; tough, spongy flesh; base has fine hairs

Spore print: ochre

Look-alikes: 

Ochre Jelly Club or Jelly Babies (Leotia lubrica)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; on the ground; coniferous or deciduous forests; sprint to fall

Form Description: cap is convex and bumpy, margin inrolled; smooth and gelatinous texture; ochre, yellow, dull olive; stalk is minutely scaly, colored as cap and might be wider at the base

Look-alikes: Leotia viscosa has a green cap and a yellow stem; Leotia atrovirens has a green cap and stem, which might be L. lubrica parasitized (see Hypomyces leotiicola) which turns the whole body teal blue.

Microglossum viride

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; in moss; under conifers or deciduous trees; summer and fall

Form Description: scurfy, cylindrical stem; flattened head with a crease in the middle and smooth surface; flesh is white to green

Spore print: 

Look-alikes: Microglossum olivaceum has a bald stem.

Xylaria

  • Grows on wood, may not be obvious

  • Club or coral-like

  • Often hard, bumpy, carbonlike crust with a white, tough center

Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; deciduous stumps or logs, especially beech or maple; spring to fall

Immature form: Blue-grey toned, finger-shaped club with a light-colored, slender tip, which turns out to be a layer of asexual spores; spring

Mature form: thickens into a club, usually an irregular shape and a broad tip; turns black with a carbon-like surface; when slices in half, the flesh is white and the edge is lined with perithecia, pockets of spores; pseudostem

Look-alikes: 

Velvet-foot Fairy Fan (Spathulariopsis velutipes)

Notes: 

Habitat & Ecology: saprophytic; on well-decayed wood or appearing to come out of the ground; usually on hemlock but can be on other conifers; summer and fall

Form Description: fan or spoon-shaped with a cylindrical brown stalk and pale fan; surface is finely velvety; basal mycelium is bright orange

Spore print: 

Look-alikes: Spathulariopsis flavida is similar but is pale colored and has white mycelium.

Earthtongues

  • Black Earth Tongues 

    • Trichoglossum

      • Black with dark, sharp-pointed setae in the tissue of the head and stem, visible as bristly hairs on the surface with a hand lens

    • Geoglossum

      • Black and no setae, smooth surface