On a recent botanical outing we came across the fungus called in English 'King Alfred's Cakes'. The name comes about because it resembles burnt cakes, such as might have been the result of King Alfred's lack of attention when asked to mind the cakes on the griddle in the well-known English legend.
Since this legend has no resonance in French history, the fungus has a much less imaginative French vernacular name -- Daldinie concentrique, merely a Frenchifying of its scientific name Daldinia concentrica.
The species is also very commonly known as Cramp Balls, as well as having several names which refer to its resemblance to coal, such as Coal Fungus and Carbon Balls. It occurs over a wide range and is especially associated with fallen Ash Fraxinus sp (Fr. Frêne) trees or branches.
|Dissected to show the concentric rings.|
It gets its scientific specific name because of the concentric growth layers, each representing a reproductive season and easily visible if you cut a specimen in half. It seems to be a fungus which copes well with dry situations and less well with too much moisture. It competes vigorously with mosses and algaes in its vicinity to take a large share of the nutrients available from the process of decomposing wood and produces chemicals to eliminate its rivals. It is also one of the fungi that can be used as tinder, smouldering with a distinctive odour and requiring careful attention to keep ignited.