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What Time is it in Nature: Bird’s Nest Fungus

August 22, 2012

Family Nidulariaceae

Bird’s nest fungi are fascinating!  These tiny, moisture-loving fungi grow in wooded areas, including the woods along the Forest Trail at Prairie Ridge.

Birds Nest Fungus

What is a bird’s nest fungus?  Bird’s nest fungi are part of the fungus family Nidulariaceae. You can distinguish them from other fungi by their unique bird’s nest-like shape, complete with eggs inside. They are decomposers that feed on rotting wood, so you typically find them in damp, wooded areas.

Where are bird’s nest fungi found?  Bird’s nest fungi are very common and found in moist areas throughout the world. They are especially common in areas that have been enriched or landscaped with wood chips or wood mulch.

What are the “eggs” inside the nests?  Bird’s nest fungi have a fascinating method of reproduction! The “eggs” inside the nests contain fungal spores, which are effectively the seeds of the fungus. The bird’s nest shape of the fungus creates a splash up so that when it rains, raindrops that fall into the cups at just the right angle fling the eggs far from the fungus. The spores are then released from the “egg” and new fungi eventually grow from the spores.

Bird’s nest fungi are currently abundant in the Build a Home for a Gnome area along the Forest Trail at Prairie Ridge. Come out and take a look! To find them, get down close to the ground and look for the little cup shape of the fungus. At about 3/8 of an inch, they’re quite small, but keep looking! You’ll soon see a dense mat of them covering the ground and see the little “eggs” inside.

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation.  Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photo by Chris Goforth)

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