Colorado is a popular place to hunt for mushrooms, and many people do it as a hobby here. More than 5,000 species of mushrooms can be found in the Centennial State, ranging from edible to poisonous, and even several psychedelic kinds. Those who set out to find them in the wilderness usually know exactly where to explore, as well as the ideal season and habitat in which certain mushrooms can be seen.

But recently, some locals who aren't active foragers have been coming across an especially unique kind of fungus called Xylaria polymorpha.

Unlike Amanita Muscaria or Western Puffballs (Calvatia booniana), this particular species of fungi has a much less appealing appearance. In fact, its distinctly grotesque and unsettling appearance is why Xylaria polymorpha is more commonly called 'Dead Man's Fingers'.

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wahid hasyim asyari/Getty Images

Dead Man’s Fingers is a fungal pathogen that grows in small towering groups of three to six mushrooms. According to the Denver Botanic Gardens, Xylaria polymorpha usually grows from the bases of rotting or injured tree stumps and decaying wood. The fungus decomposes the wood and breaks organic matter down where it can be absorbed as nutrients by surrounding or future plants. If Coloradans find this fungus growing at the roots or trunk of a tree in their yard, it may be an indication that the tree is stressed.

Related: Here's Why Lots of Mushrooms Popped Up Around Colorado Last Spring

The way these mushrooms pop up actually resembles fingers coming out of the ground, which is how they got their fitting nickname. Sometimes they are also capped with a white that forms, which looks very similar to a fingernail.

Each “finger” is about 1 to 3 centimeters in diameter and can be between 3 to 8 centimeters tall. The fingers serve as reproductive vessels for the fungus. They have a small hole at the top that releases reproductive spores.

Dead Man's Fingers are extremely poisonous if ingested. Do not eat!

Check Out Some Mushrooms Found Around Colorado

Mushrooms can be tricky to identify. There are so many factors to consider, such as the gills underneath the cap. With even a slight gill variation, it can be an entirely different mushroom

Gallery Credit: Kelsey Nistel

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