The black tulip fungus is a harbinger of spring in the northeastern and midwestern United States and into Canada. It's much more common than you think and can be found about the same time as morels-- but you have to look really closely! Although Urnula can be rather abundant in the forest, it is usually very difficult to see because of its black color and leaf-like shape. Usually if you find one, there are others nearby. Often they are even found fruiting in clusters of several fruiting bodies. It's likely that this fungus causes a wood decay. Urnula seems to fruit from the sides of fallen logs, but really comes out at the interface of the log and the soil, an area where it's most moist. It can also be found growing from buried wood and wood that barely breaks the surface of the soil-- again this is a habitat that is wetter than the surrounding area. It often grown in the vicinity of trees such as oak, aspen, and cottonwood, eventually growing on their wood. I usually find Urnula in rather deep, shaded woods. Members of the Ascomycota generally produce a soft rot, which means that they digest the glucans in the wood. If you remember, the Basidiomycota decay the lignin and/or cellulose of the wood. It would seem to be more efficient and to decay the more abundant lignin and cellulose, but the Ascomycota seem to be doing just fine, thank you. See this page for more information on wood decay by fungi.
Black flowers are often given as a joke or a "dig" on the occasion of someone's 40th or 50th birthday. Sometimes a bouquet of black flowers is sent as a not-so-veiled threat. But are there really black flowers?
Is there really such a thing as a black tulip flower? The International Bulb Society provides some interesting information about black tulips in their Flower Bulb FAQs.
Q. Where can I buy the rare black tulip?
A. Actually, black tulips are not rare -- black tulips do not exist! What do exist are some very, very deep purple tulips, some of which appear almost black. The search for the fabled black tulip has been an epic quest for centuries.
In 1850 Alexander Dumas, famed French author of "The Count of Monte Cristo," "The Three Musketeers," and "The Man in the Iron Mask," captured the popular fancy with "The Black Tulip" (now with Oxford University Press), a romantic tale in which a fictional black tulip figures in a love story laced with murder, torture, greed, dastardly intrigue, and sudden surprises.
Today, the lure of a black tulip still attracts. Dutch hybridizers have achieved some very, very deep purples. 'Queen of Night,' for example, is officially listed as "deep velvety maroon" and is very, very dark in color. But achieving a true black tulip, say the experts, is not possible (yet still worth the try!). For a near-black experience also try: T. 'Burgundy' (deep purple-violet), T. 'Black Parrot' (violet-black) or T. 'Black Diamond' (deep mahogany).