The Devil's Urn (Urnula craterium) is a very common spring season mushroom that can be found in deciduous hardwood forests throughout Eastern North America. Look for them in March thru May after seasonal rainfalls. These mushrooms share a symbiotic relationship with hardwood trees, especially oaks. All mushrooms have a network of fungal cells called mycelium, these mycelium attach to the roots of trees and feed off the sugars in the roots. This breaks down the dying roots and wood of the trees speeding up the decaying process.
The Devil's urn mushroom resembles the very delicious black trumpet mushroom, but is not considered an edible mushroom. Although not particularly poisonous they are not considered nutritious or worth bothering with . While not edible they do appear in the woodlands at virtually the same time as morel mushrooms. For some people the appearance of robins herald in the spring, but for those who love mushrooms it is this very mushroom that is the harbinger of spring. Consider this quote found in Petersen's: A Field Guide to Mushrooms: "The black cups emerging through the fallen leaves from March to May are true harbingers of spring."
The genus name of Urnula translates to little urn, and the species name craterium translates to small crater. When they first emerge through the ground they resembled little grape clusters after a few days they will look like little fingers before finally reaching the last stage of little open urns.The appearance of these mushrooms is a sign of healthy soil.