One of the things that amazes me are the various forms and shapes found among fungi or mushrooms.
Bird’s nest fungi, although very small and often overlooked, actually do look like tiny bird’s nests. Measured in millimeters, bird’s nest fungi consist of a peridium (wall of the nest) that can be 1 to 4 layers thick. Within the nest are peridioles, or the spore-containing “eggs”. The “eggs” are usually flattened and resemble lenses or lentils. Initially an epiphragm or “lid” covers the nest. As the “eggs” mature this protective membrane disintegrates, exposing the “eggs” to the elements. Bird’s nest fungi do not have stalks.
Raindrops disperse bird’s nest fungi spores. The force of a raindrop falling into the “nest” cup splashes the mature eggs out of the “nest” as far as seven feet away. For this reason bird’s nest fungi are often commonly called “splash cups”.
Unlike most mushrooms and fungi, which release millions of spores, bird’s nest fungi have only a few spores because each “egg” contains the two compatible sexes or strains necessary for producing a fertile mycelium.
Although there are several genera of bird’s nest fungi, I believe the pictured “nests” belong to Nidula, more specifically, Nidula niveotomentosa. “Eggs” of Nidula have a sticky gel around them which helps the “eggs” adhere wherever they land after splashing out of the “nest”.
N. niveotomentosa, also called wooly birdsnest, grows on sticks, moss or decaying bracken ferns. The wooly birdsnest exterior is white and pubescent (downy) when young, becoming buff to pale grey as it matures. The small “eggs” are brown. The species name, niveotomentosa, derives from “niveous” meaning “like snow” and “tomentose”, which refers to the fuzzy hairs.
Bird’s nest fungi are so small that edibility is academic.
These wooly birdsnests were growing in McArthur-Burney Falls State Park (CA) not far from Burney Creek.