Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daldinia concentrica, the tinder of Cheddar´s man

Daldinia concentrica is a fungus with a fruiting bodies or sporocarps in a ball that grows as a saprophyte on dead trunks and branches of different trees such as oaks, eucalyptus, citrus, ash, pine, chestnut, etc ... Belongs to the family of Xylariaceae. When young has a reddish brown color that darkens as they mature to acquire a jet black color. It don't have a foot. It is set directly on the decaying wood. It is distributed throughout Europe and North America.

Several copies of Daldinia concentrica on a lemon tree trunk at different stages of growth, down very young and fully mature up, photographed in the Valley of Soller on the island of Mallorca.

Close look at the Daldinia concentrica mushrooms in the previous photo. The fruiting bodies or sporocarps usually measure between 2 and 7 centimeters in diameter, but can sometimes reach 12 centimeters.

The sporocarps of Daldinia concentrica have been used as tinder for lighting fires since prehistoric times.

Cheddar Man, an English human fossil dating back over 9,000 years, found in 1998 in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, carried a pair of Daldinia concentrica fruiting bodies very dry  that served to make fire easily with a simple spark from a flint stone (Silex).

The famous ice man, Ötzi, found frozen in 1991 in the Italian Alps and to which the scientists estimate an antiquity of 5,300 years, also carried a fruiting body of Daldinia concentrica and several flint stones to make fire.

The same fruit body of Daldinia can be used to light a fire many times. It pulls up a spark by rubbing two stones flint or chert. The very dry spongeous structure of the Daldinia  burns with ease without flame and it is very difficult to extinguish. The burned piece is cast on very dry grass, natural cotton like the Clematis, coconut fibers, leaves, pine needles, bark very dry or any other dried plant material easy to ignite, it blows up for a flame and get a fire in just a couple of minutes.

If we cut in half a fruiting body will see the characteristic structure black and white concentric layers, each of which holds a breeding season. Counting the number of layers can know the age of each sporophore.

Details of previous cut with concentric layers, the latter of which is filled with black spores that are dispersed by the wind.

Microphotograph at 400 magnification of elongated spores of Daldinia concentrica measured in microns.

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