Birds Nest Fungi

Birds Nest Fungi, Vancouver Island, BC
Birds Nest Fungi, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Birds Nest Fungi are a small group of saprophytic fungi that have a unique way of reproducing. As their common name suggests they look like small bird nests complete with eggs. In fact, the nest is a splash cup that is light to dark brown, green or white on the outside, and white, grey, or brown on the inside, depending on the species.

With smooth flaring sides between up to 10 mm in diameter and up to 20 mm in height, again depending on the species. The immature bird nest has a cap over the top of the splash cup to protect the eggs, which breaks away at maturity.

The eggs are small capsules that contain spores. These capsules are lens-shaped shiny white, black, grey, or dark brown.  As bird’s nest fungi are saprophytes and thus decomposers of organic material, they are found most often on decaying wood, small twigs, tree fern debris, and sometimes on animal scat.

Birds Nest Fungi, Vancouver Island, BC
Birds Nest Fungi, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

The Birds Nest fungi use the hydraulic pressure of water to disperse their capsules. This is achieved by rainwater or water dripping off foliage above, dripping into the splash cup.

This cup is the right shape and size that when the water hits the bottom of the cup it splashes out with enough force to disperse the capsules up to a meter away. When the capsules land on a solid object, like a leaf or twig they stick to it, then grow into a new mushroom.

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