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Crucibulum laeve (Family Nidulariaceae)

Bird's-nest Fungus

Distribution:

It is widespread in a wide variety of habitats. The distribution shown on the map is based on herbarium records and reliable sightings. It is likely that this species has a wider distribution than that shown on the map. However there has been little work on the distribution of Australian fungi and there are surprisingly few herbarium specimens of even the common species. (ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS, WA, NT )

Features:

The mature, cup-shaped fruiting bodies are mostly between 5 and 10 mm tall and of similar diameter. The open cups contain numerous 'eggs' (or peridioles), each peridiole being attached to the cup wall by a very thin 'string' (or funiculus). The peridioles are lenticular, 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter and initially ochraceous but later become white. Within the hard casing of each peridiole are numerous spores. When immature, the fruiting bodies are closer to spherical and are initially closed by a brown to orange skin (or epiphragm) across the cup mouths. The outer walls of the cups are white to brown and initially fairly woolly, but the outer walls can become smooth with age. This is one of the few bird's-nest fungi in which a new fruiting body may develop inside an old fruiting body.

The fruiting bodies often appear in large numbers.

The spores are colourless when viewed through the microscope. Basidiomycete.

Ecology/Way of Life:

A saprotroph on fallen twigs, dead grass blades, fern fronds, dung, old matting or compost.

Other Comments:

The type specimen was collected in Europe. This is a cosmopolitan species and one of the commonest birds-nest fungi in the world, although it is absent from the tropics. If you're searching for information on Crucibulum, take care, because in the animal kingdom there is a mollusc genus of the same name. There are about 60 species of birds-nest fungi and the presence (or absence) of the epiphragm or funiculus are important identification features.

Further Reading:

Brodie, H.J. (1975). The Bird's Nest Fungi. University of Toronto Press.

Cunningham, G.H. (1979). The Gasteromycetes of Australia and New Zealand. (repr.) J. Cramer.

Pegler, D.N., Laessoe, T. & Spooner, B.M. (1995). British Puffballs, Earthstars and Stinkhorns. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Acknowledgments:

Text by Heino Lepp.
Image kindly provided by Bruce Fuhrer from his recent book: A Field Guide to Australian Fungi

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