I had planned a long walk along a local beach but unforecast hail and almost constant showers sent me stomping homeward sooner than expected, a little disappointed at not seeing many waterfowl. And then a splash of yellow on the ground caught my eye, a blob of Witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica) on a small fallen branch. But, even better than the butter, my eye was drawn to this fabulous cluster of Common bird’s nest fungi (Crucibulum laeve), a species that’s more common than you might think but very easily overlooked because of its small size.
I’ve blogged about these fungi before (Bird’s-nests with eggs!, August 2017) – click on the link to see better photos, taken in dry weather, when the details of the nests and their eggs can be more clearly seen. And check out tomorrow’s post for some even more amazing fungi, lurking right next to these bird’s nests.
How cool are these?
Of course, you’ve guessed it – I’m not talking about eggs in the nests of birds with feathers: these are fungi, but one of the most amazing types of fungi I know. And this was the first time I’d seen them with eggs in the nests and, indeed, it was the first time I’d seen them before the eggs were exposed. And there must have been hundreds of them, all growing along the planks of wood around a raised garden bed.
This is the Common bird’s-nest fungus (Crucibulum laeve) and I think you can see where it got its common name. It starts off looking like small blobs of yellowy orange fur, then the furry membrane falls off to reveal its inner cupcake-shaped fruiting body and that’s where the eggs sit. Of course, they’re not eggs at all: the scientific name for them is peridioles. They’re effectively capsules full of spores that are activated when rain drops hit them, causing them to ‘leave the nest’ and begin the germination process. (If you’re as fascinated by these as I am, you can read more here.)