Bird’s Nest Fungi

If I could be but a mote of dust able to steer the course of where I’d land—and still be, consciously me—I’d land right into the fruiting body of a bird’s nest fungi, where perhaps I may be propelled on an unknown trajectory, landing somewhere, anywhere, amongst the leaves, branches and litter of the forest. Just for the fun and curiosity of it. Or, in the very least, I could sit for a while in an odd place amongst resting pods of potential, waiting to fulfill their unusual journey, destined to join a vast secret network. 

Why not? Although, come to think of it… to be a conscious mote of dust landing anywhere, may be just as interesting. But fungi intrigue me. They speak a language our kind may never fully understand. 

For many reasons, our fungal kin have intrigued humankind for millennia. Of their vast array of fruiting bodies of endless shapes and colors, existing from the microscopic to the largest organism on Earth, there is much to delight in the world of fungi. 

Mycelial networks of fungi reach far and wide speaking to the trees, and ultimately entire forests, in an ongoing expression of continual resurrection. They embody an innate knowing that death in the cosmos never truly exists. And that all of nature, is a continuum of becoming. 

Responsible for breaking down organic matter, while also releasing carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus into the soil, fungi create rich soils capable of capturing massive amounts of carbon from our atmosphere which in turn helps to stabilize our climate. In doing so, they give us life. 

The delightful bird’s nest fungi in particular tickles a sense of wonder having evolved an rather unusual mode of dispersal. The general shape of the tiny bird’s nest fungi is a conical or bowl shape body called a peridium and is found adhered to a natural surface. The bowl, or inverted cone, can measure anywhere from 1 to 25 mm in height and 2 to 10 mm in width, housing tiny capsules which are the “eggs” of the nest. Serving as a splash cup, the cup’s slanted shape allows for a single raindrop to propel spore-filled “eggs” called peridioles up into the air, sometimes up to a meter away. That is quite the distance for a pod measuring only 1-3 mm in diameter.

Peridioles (the “eggs”) themselves are attached to the peridium via what’s called a funicular cord, packed inside the coiled cord is an envelope known as a purse which is thought to remain intact until dispersed. After a raindrop initiates their skyward journey, they land adhering themselves to branches, leaves, twigs mulch litter and more, where spores are released. Exactly how this process occurs remains somewhat of a mystery. I can only imagine the difficulty in locating the tiny periodioles amongst the forest. But when dispersed, the spores create a mycelial network connecting themselves with other mycelia present in the environment eventually producing even more whimsical fruiting bodies.

Interestingly, mycologist have even studied the speed, course and distance of such projections with as best accuracy as earthly as possible—perhaps more for curiosity’s sake, than for the sake of scientific knowing. But as with many species in the kingdom of fungi, there is much mystery that surrounds these little wonders. 

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