Daldinia concentrica  (Bolton) Ces. & De Not. 1863
Main synonym = Valsa tuberosa    Scop. 1772
Taxonomical Classification:  Fungi / Ascomycota / Pyrenomycetes / Xylariales / Xylariaceae
Cramp Balls, Coal Fungus     Ballun tas-siġar
Further Information:
This fungus resembles a black ball made of Carbon or coal attached to trunks of trees. It measures between 3-8cm in diameter and usually broader then high. Some common names for this fungus are the coal fungus, carbon balls, cramp balls, or King Alfred's cakes. A cross-section of Daldinia concentrica through the middle reveals concentric zones, hence the name 'concentrica'. Each of these zones represent an annual growth, sames as rings in the trunks of trees. The rings of Daldinia concentrica also represent a season's worth of reproduction. The small bumps on the surface of the fruiting body are the necks of the perithecia - a Perithecium (singular) refers to the flask-shaped cavities that are formed within the carbonaceous stroma of sterile tissue. Within the perithecia are the cylindrical asci, in which the meiotically-produced ascospores are borne. This species is saprophytic as it lives on dead bark of branches or tree trunks such as Olives. D. concentrica contains several unique compounds, including a metabolite called concentricol, which is oxidized squalene. Many types of insects and other small animals make their home inside this species of fungus.

The fungus is a useful form of tinder for fire-lighting. The brown variety is usually too heavy and dense to be much good; the black variety is lighter and better. It does need to be completely dry, whereupon it will easily take a spark from a firesteel. It burns slowly, much like a charcoal briquette, with a particularly pungent smoke. Once lit it is quite difficult to extinguish, but fragments can be broken off and transferred to a tinder ball to create an open flame.

Quite rare in Malta and protected by law (LN311/2006)

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