Splash Cup (Bird’s Nest Fungus)

Crucibulum laeve
Not recommended/not edible
Family

Nidulariaceae

Description

Small brown cups holding tiny “eggs” that are each attached to the “nest” by a cord. Grows in clusters on dead wood, debris, and wood chips. July–October. Cup small, flared at the top, with tiny whitish “eggs” inside; dark brownish gray; outer texture woolly, interior smooth; each “egg” 1⁄32–1⁄16 inch wide, flattened, attached to cup by a very thin but strong cord. Spore print colorless. Spores magnified elliptical, smooth.

Lookalikes: There are several other members in the bird's nest fungi family, and they all look more or less like tiny bird nests filled with eggs.

Size

Cup width: 1/4 to 5/8 inch; height: 1/4 to 5/8 inch.

splash_cup_05-05-13.jpg

Photo of several splash cup fungi, like tiny birdnests, on a piece of wood mulch
Splash Cup (Bird’s Nest Fungus)
Habitat and conservation

Grows clustered on dead wood, debris, and wood chips. Common in landscaping mulch.

image of Splash Cup Bird’s Nest Fungus distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Not edible.

Life cycle

This species exists as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting wood. When it's ready to reproduce, small knoblike structures develop, each covered by a membrane that opens at maturity, revealing the cuplike shape beneath. Spores are contained in the egglike spore sacs in the "nest." When raindrops hit the sacs, they spring from the cups and adhere to surfaces three or four feet away. When the spores mature, they are released, falling to the ground to begin new growth.

Human connections

Like wildflowers, even the smallest and humblest of fungi can turn out to be strikingly beautiful, strange—or even cute. Discovering these wonders can bring out our childlike sense of awe.

Ecosystem connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying plant matter. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials plants are made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.