Although Birds Nest fungi are tiny and inconspicuous unless massed, they are fascinating.
Cyathus striatus is commonly called Striated or Fluted Birds Nest Fungi. The size of fruit bodies varies from 5 to 10mm tall and 4 to 8mm broad. The exterior infertile surface of the tiny vase-shaped cup is brown to grey, and shaggy. When the 'lid' or cover of the 'nest' splits and decomposes, the shiny inner surface is revealed. The interior surface is distinctly grooved or striated vertically, making this species easy to identify.
The 'eggs' in the 'nest' are the spore packages, technically called peridioles. These hard-skinned shiny grey peridioles are neatly packed into the cup, each having an elastic thread (called funiculus) attached to one end, with a weight (called hapteron) attached to the end of the thread.
Their dispersal technique is remarkable. The peridole is dislodged from the cup by raindrops, and ejected with the weighted string trailing. With the help of the weighted end, the string entwines around vegetation or other organic matter, and if all goes well, spores will germinate and invade the substrate.
Alternately, herbivores will consume the peridioles with their fodder, and the spores will pass through the gut of the animal and be excreted, possibly onto suitable substrate for germination.
Cyathus striatus can be found on fallen twigs and bark, herbivore dung, organically enriched soil, and wood-chip mulch. Besides Australia, it occurs in North America, Canada, Europe, and possibly other countries.
|Cyathus striatus on horse dung|
|Note the brown 'shaggy' exterior, and shiny grey striated interior.|
|Tightly packed peridioles. My thumb gives a size perspective.|
My sightings of Cyathus striatus
[This will be updated with new sightings]
The Pilliga area of northwestern NSW - Merriwindi State Conservation Area, on horse dung, June 2010; Aug 2010
- Some antibiotics have been isolated from mycelia of Cyathus striatus - this could lead to treatment of some tropical diseases that are responsible for considerable mortality and morbidity.
- Anti cancer effects have been found from fungal extracts prepared from Cyathus striatus, showing significant inhibiting effects on certain chemical pathways, suggesting activities worthy of investigation as cancer therapeutics.
Blog entries on other Birds Nest Fungi species: