This Mushroom Can Fly

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Bird’s nest fungi look just like a tiny bird’s nest. But those little eggs have no yolks. Each one is a spore sac waiting for a single raindrop to catapult it on a journey with a layover inside the bowels of an herbivore.


What can a single raindrop do?

Send these mysterious eggs on a journey, for one thing.

But these eggs have no yolk inside. Instead, they hold millions of spores that will spread this curious little mushroom called a bird’s nest fungus.


Two of them would barely cover your thumbnail.

They grow up on logs or twigs on the forest floor or mulch in your backyard.

The spore sacs, known as peridioles, sit patiently in their splash cup, biding their time.

When a raindrop hits the cup, the peridiole hurtles off in milliseconds and lands on the ground or a leaf.

Bam! Pow! Zap!

As it flies, this peridiole unfurls a cord and with some luck gloms onto a blade of grass.

From the back, you can see how the cord wrapped around. A sticky bit at the end, called the hapteron, anchors it.

The peridiole doesn’t end up that far from home.

It waits dangling from this thin but surprisingly strong cord. It’s made of thousands of entwined threads called hyphae – that same webby material a fungus grows underground.

Yoo-hoo! Over here! A hungry deer nibbles the grass and takes the peridiole with it.

As it wanders, it scatters the spores in its droppings and spreads the fungus to new frontiers.

It’s a slightly undignified journey, propelled by a plop … and a drop.

Hey, Deep Peeps! We’ve got another “fun guy” story for you. Get it? Giant water bugs can give your toe a painful bite if you wade into their stream. But they may be the best insect dads ever, hauling eggs around until they hatch right off their backs. Thanks, pops!