PPDL Picture of the Week for
January 14, 2013

Bird’s Nest Fungi

Dan Egel, Vegetable Pathology Specialist, Botany & Plant Pathology Department, Purdue University

This image is of a type of fungus often referred to as the ‘bird’s nest fungi’.  The photo was taken in a pumpkin patch this past summer. Abe seems to be staring incredulously at the tiny, intricate fungal structure.  Or maybe he is wondering what the beetle is doing on the fungus (I don’t have an answer for him).

This fungus lives on dead plant material.  Homeowners might find bird’s nest fungi in landscaping mulch.  This pumpkin patch was reduced till, so bits of old corn stalks were probably sufficient organic matter for the fungus.  The ‘nest’ portion of the fungus is designed so that a rain drop can splash the ‘eggs’ to different locations.  Of course, the ‘eggs’ aren’t really eggs- they are filled with spores of the bird’s nest fungus.  Sometimes, the eggs have a cord attached to them so that the eggs, when dispersed, may be wrapped around a twig or branch by the cord.  In any case, the spores won’t produce another bird’s nest fungus unless the spores reach organic matter with the correct amount of moisture. 

Now that you know about bird’s nest fungi, look for these fungi on mulch or other organic matter around your home next summer.  The spores of a bird’s nest fungi might be waiting beneath the snow around your home right now!

Click image to enlarge

Bird's nest fungus next to penny

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service