I was harvesting cucumbers earlier this week and happened upon these crazy little fungi growing on the ground underneath the cucumber leaves:
After a bit of diligent scientific research (e.g. googling “bird’s nest fungus,” which is what it looks like), I discovered that these fungi are in the family Nidulariaceae, the bird’s nest fungi family. I love it when things are named for what they look like.
These fungi make their living from decomposing wood and other plant organic matter. Looks like they’re taking full advantage of the wood chips and the shade and moisture underneath our cucumber plants.
Apparently the part that looks like the nest is a splash cup for dispersing fungal spores. This from Wikipedia:
“The nests are splash cups. When a raindrop hits one at the right angle, the walls are shaped such that the eggs are expelled a good distance from the nest. Some species have a sticky trailing thread, a funicular cord, attached to the peridiole. If that thread encounters a twig on its flight the egg will swing around and wrap itself around the twig. The spores can then germinate there and start the life cycle over again.”
Dang, nature, you crazy.