Sphaerobolus stellatus has one of the most unusual spore dispersal mechanisms: its base pops up and quickly flings a glob of spores into the air. The fungus forms tiny (no more than 3mm across) star-shaped mushrooms in mulch, which can cause problems for homeowners when the spore globs glue themselves to cars, siding, and the like. S. stellatus’s unique spore dispersal strategy has resulted in a variety of common names, including: “Artillery Fungus,” “Cannonball Fungus,” “Cannon Fungus,” “Sphere Thrower” (which is a literal translation of its Latin name), and “Shotgun Fungus.”
Tagged: birds nest
mushrooms with a bird’s nest morphology
This is one of the most common bird’s nest fungi and is among the easiest to identify. Cyathus striatus has a shaggy outer surface and a smooth but vertically lined inner surface, readily distinguishing it from the other bird’s nest fungi. Although frequently found in places like mulch beds, this mushroom’s common name – the “Fluted Bird’s Nest” – is not widely used. More often, people simply call this mushroom by its scientific name.
Note: this is an archived post. You can read the current version of this post here. Happy New Year! To celebrate, I decided to use some fungal cannon fire to start 2016 off with a bang! Although it is tiny, Sphaerobolus stellatus gets just about as close as a fungus can to actually being a firework. The tiny, star-shaped fruiting bodies are designed to launch a spherical sac of spores high into the air. This unique spore dispersal strategy has resulted in a variety of common names, including: “Artillery Fungus,” “Cannonball Fungus,” “Cannon Fungus,” “Sphere Thrower” (which is a literal translation of its Latin name), “Shotgun Fungus,” “Shooting Star,” and “Bombardier Fungus.”
These small (< 1.5cm) fungi are easily recognizable by their striking resemblance to a bird’s nest with eggs inside. The “eggs” are actually spore-containing sacks called peridioles. As in the other gasteromycetes, the bird’s nest fungi produce spores internally and have lost the ability to forcibly discharge their spores. To overcome this obstacle, the bird’s nest fungi developed their unique morphology to act as a splash cup. The basic splash cup mechanism works as follows: a raindrop falls into the cup, which propels one of the peridioles (“eggs”) out of the cup. The next challenge for the bird’s nest fungi is to stick to whatever they land on. These fungi have evolved two different mechanisms in order to accomplish this. Fungi in the genera Mycocalia, Nidula, and Nidularia have peridioles that are covered in sticky mucilage, which allows them to adhere to surfaces on contact. Fungi in the genera Crucibulum...