The genus Daldinia Ces. & De
Not. was named to honor Agostino Daldini (1817-1895), a Catholic monk who lived near
Locarno, Switzerland and who was a friend of Cesati and De Notaris (Crivelli et al.,
1981). It is a small assemblage of perhaps 22 species. Some of the species seem uncommon
and are thus not frequently encountered. Others, such as D.
childiae J. D. Rogers & Y.-M. Ju and some taxa frequently confused with it
are common in North America, Europe, and elsewhere. Daldinia
concentrica (Bolton: Fr.) Ces. & De Not. is conspicuous because of its
relatively large size (several cm in diameter and height) and its internal structure of
alternating lightcolored and darkcolored rings. Thus, it has long been known
to man and probably fascinated him through most of his tenure near temperate angiospermous
forests. Saccardo (1910) listed 24 sources of illustrations of D. concentrica
and, since then, it has been depicted many more times. Among the larger pyrenomycetes D.
concentrica and its ilk are rivalled only by the larger Xylaria
species in general recognizability. Because of the common occurrence of D. concentrica
and allies, it is not surprising that a certain folklore has grown up about them. Stromata
of D. concentrica have been called "cramp balls" in
Great Britain because carrying them on one's person is reputed to prevent or relieve leg
cramps (Ainsworth, 1976). They have also been called "King Alfred's cakes"
because of their supposed resemblance to some pastries that this Saxon king reputedly
burnt while falling asleep during a baking session. They have also been considered as a
type of puff ball from time to time.
Daldinia species, like many other wood-decaying pyrenomycetes and many polyporaceous and agaricaceous basidiomycetes, wall themselves off in host wood by forming irregular sac-like structures. These structures are composed of conspicuous dark hyphae. In wood cuts, sections of these sacs appear as brown to black lines-often called zone lines-or sheets. Wood so colonized is badly decayed, but retains enough integrity to be made into small items such as hair clasps, brooches, jewelry boxes, etc. The wood, called "spalted wood" or "calico wood", is often very striking with its ornamentations of dark lines and figures. Panisset (1929) proved that "calico wood" in European ash is caused by D. concentrica.