AMAZING: A birds nest fungi with its fantastic forms
AMAZING: A birds nest fungi with its fantastic forms Contributed

Blown away with Noosa's fungi 'fantastic'

FUNGI come in a mind-blowing array of forms - jellies, crusts, stinkhorns and corals to name just a few - but one of the most intriguing forms is that of the bird's nest fungi.

Fairly common and often gregarious (ie, they appear in groups/troops of hundreds), these saprotrophs (wood-digesting recyclers) are at home in decaying organic matter such as wood or bark mulch.

Their tiny size means they are often overlooked. It's a shame, because they are among the most bizarre, incredible forms of fungi around and that's saying something.

Have a look with a hand lens or magnifying glass and you'll see exquisite little sculptures to admire - shiny little eggs clustered in a bowl shape or goblet-shaped "nest''.

Maybe that's where the birds got the idea.

These are the fruiting bodies of fungi extending mycelial networks through the mulch substrate, breaking down the wood/material and recycling nutrients, making them available to plants, invertebrates, micro-organisms and more.

The bird's nests are the visible reminders of the vast networks of fungi growing through the living soil - the incredibly rich and complex diversity of the world under our feet.

Within the kingdom fungi, bird's nests are in the family nidulariaceae and include the genera cyathus, crucibulum, nidula, nidularia and mycocalia.

These fungi have a widespread distribution in most ecological regions. The fruiting bodies (nests) are generally between 5-15mm wide, 4-8mm high and globe, urn or vase-shaped.

The cups have shaggy-hairy exteriors and smooth or fluted interiors.

The "eggs'' are peridioles - capsules of spores, packaged for distribution.

These fungi employ rain-splash spore dispersal. When a raindrop hits a "nest'' at the right angle, the "eggs'' are expelled to about one metre away from the cup.

The peridiole sticks to the surface of the plant, leaf, wood or whatever it has landed on. In some species the peridiole has a sticky-ended tail made of fungal threads that attaches it.

The peridiole dries out, splits, spores are dispersed and - all going well - germination occurs.

Theresa Bint