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Saturday, 23 February 2008

King Alfreds' Cakes AKA Crampballs

This is one of my favourite fungi. Its' botanical name is Daldinia concentrica, it is a wood degrading fungi that favours ash as a host, and deadwood for its' food source.

This fungus found on a live tree will be growing on deadwood or dysfunctional tissue and indicates the presence of a primary pathogen, or circumstances that have already had a detrimental affect on the tree. The tree is therefore under stress.

Yesterday I visited woodland where many ash trees were felled 2-3 years ago due to poor condition. The woodland is small and situated adjacent to public highway, footpaths and a nursing home, so dealing with hazards was a priority of management.

Most of the ash trees removed appear to have been felled due to structural flaws or infection by the fungus Inonotus hispidus, Ash Heart Rot. (Despite the common name this fungus can be found on other tree species. It is also known as Walnut Heart Rot and Shaggy Bracket.)

The larger sections of the main stem and primary limbs (Primary Limbs - The main structural branches of a tree joined directly to the main stem.)have been sectioned and kept on site as habitat piles and to avoid unnecessary disturbance into a woodland populated densely by badgers.

Since being felled the ash wood has been devoured by Daldinia concentrica and I got many wonderful photos of it old and new.

This fungus releases its spores through tiny holes in the surface. It is termed an ascomycetes as it throws its spores out where as many other fungus, mushrooms and bracket fungi, drop their spores out from the underside of the fruit, termed basidiomycetes.

The more bronzed fruiting bodies are older and becoming dysfunctional, new fruiting bodies will replace them and are black.


  1. I have seen these many a time, and know then as King Alfreds Cakes. Now thanks to you I know that bit more about them.

  2. Hey Tom! Have you seen the inside of them? I must split one open and get a photo. They are called concentrica due to their concentric rings inside and it is quite intricate and beautiful.

  3. They look like some kind of horrific disease - fascinating..

  4. I have these on some very huge old oak trees. What can I do about them?

  5. Hello Anonymous, I am afraid there is nothing you can do about the infection. This fungus predominantly feeds on deadwood and is usually associated with trees that are already suffering in some other way. In ash they are an indication of a tree already in decline and I would look for other issues.

    I would expect the same on an infection of oak however some oak tree species can live for much longer and commonly develop deadwood, especially if they are within maturity or senescence.

    Daldinea is an important fungi for the breakdown of deadwood and deadwood is good, attracting insects that provide food sources for birds and bats.

    I would recommend that you got an arboricultural consultant to look at the trees so they may tell you if there is something else going on, let you know how significant it is in terms of tree health and whether action is required dependent on the trees location and therefore cultural demands.

    They should be able to inspect the trees and give you some advice there and then.

    I hope this helps and good luck. If you have a blog post a picture of the trees as I would love to see them.

    Bye for now!

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