Nail fungus (Poronia punctata)

Nail fungus on pony dung
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Nail fungus fact file

Nail fungus description


This rare fungus, found on the dung of ponies and horses, takes its name from the resemblance of the fruiting bodies to nails. The stalk of the 'nail' is dark-brown, almost black in colour, whilst the expanded head is buff-white dotted with small black pores.

WARNING: many species of fungus are poisonous or contain chemicals that can cause sickness. Never pick and eat any species of fungus that you cannot positively recognise or are unsure about. Some species are deadly poisonous and can cause death within a few hours if swallowed.

Order - Xylariales.
Diameter of fruiting bodies: up to 21 mm

Nail fungus biology

Nail fungus fruiting bodies are most frequently seen in the UK in the months from October to May inclusive. The spores are ingested by livestock whilst grazing, and passed out with their dung. The spores germinate and form the mycelium of the nail fungus, eventually producing the visible fruiting bodies after the dung has had time to weather.


Nail fungus range

In the UK, nail fungus has in recent years been largely restricted to parts of the New Forest, Hampshire, until 1999 when a population was discovered on heathland in Dorset. This latter population appears to be persisting. It also occurs in a few places in south-east Europe, and is now considered to be one of the rarest fungi in Europe.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Nail fungus habitat

Nail fungus occurs only on the dung of ponies and horses which have fed on un-improved acidic grassland and heathy vegetation. The fruiting bodies are most frequently seen on well-weathered dung, and may not occur on dung that has been heavily disrupted by foraging birds or animals, possibly due to subsequent desiccation. In Europe, it has been reported as growing on cattle dung.


Nail fungus status

Classified as Endangered in the UK.


Nail fungus threats

Nail fungus has declined as a result of changes in agricultural practices, in particular the decline in the use of horses and ponies, and the loss of unimproved grassland and heathland.


Nail fungus conservation

Nail fungus is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. The Dorset populations have been monitored since their discovery in 1999, and aspects of the ecology of the species are being studied. Re-introduction into other suitable areas may be a long-term possibility.

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Fruit body
In fungi, the fruit body is the visible part of the fungus which bears spores (microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction).



Image credit

Nail fungus on pony dung  
Nail fungus on pony dung

© Jonathon Cox

Jonathon Cox
English Nature
Sleepe Farm
BH20 5BN
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1929 557 450
Fax: +44 (0) 1929 554 752


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