Forest walks are a popular activity for people who like to be in contact with nature. A walk on paths rich in vegetation, away from the noise of the city, is certainly pleasant and relaxing, you breathe clean air and can immerse yourself in your thoughts and turn your head away from everything else for a while. But even in these peaceful places you have to be careful of possible dangers and what you encounter.

Escaping from everyday life every now and then can be very beneficial: taking time out from the hustle and bustle of the city, from work and daily tasks to get in touch with nature is good for the body and especially for the mind. If walking is already good for you, it is even more fascinating and impressive in a forest. From time to time, everyone should dedicate their free time to a relaxing walk through the vegetation to recharge their batteries and enjoy a few quiet moments.

Nevertheless, one should be aware of the place where one is walking and the possible dangers, walk only in safe areas and be careful not to hurt oneself where one puts one’s feet and what one touches. The basic thing is to never pick anything up off the ground, especially if it’s something you’ve never seen before. It could be completely harmless, but it could also be potentially harmful: when in doubt, it’s always best to avoid it.

Therefore, it is better and advisable to enjoy the green environment around us, respecting it without altering it in any way, leaving behind the stress of everyday life and taking a break from the hectic routine. However, there is something special that might catch your attention and that you should not enter or occupy.

We are talking about Xylary polymorpha, a special mushroom with a truly bizarre appearance, so much so that it is called “zombie finger” because of its frightening appearance. The shape actually resembles an oversized hand sticking out of the ground to scare passersby.

This is because the mushroom sometimes develops only a single stem, but more often it develops two to five branches that join together in a group to form its typical shape. It is not actually a true fungus, but a parasite, as it requires other organisms for its survival. In any case, if you encounter it and see it, it is not a good sign.

The only place where you can spot it is in the stumps of dead and rotting trees, while it is not found near healthy trunks. If it is frequently encountered in a part of the forest, it means that the trees are not in good condition. On the other hand, a forest where this fungus does not occur is in an excellent state of health, and the plants have not been attacked by harmful microorganisms.

Unlike other fungi, the “zombie finger” can apparently survive for months or even years. However, apart from its frightening appearance, it is considered harmless to humans as long as it is not eaten. Even if you have little desire to try it, you should dismiss the thought of it right away: It is not only hard and woody, but also inedible. So, when you see it, you should admire it without touching it, and then move on.

Do you know this strange parasite?