Is this a Basidiomycetes kind of thing?

The sun was in and out yesterday, but finally more out than in as I grabbed the clippers and headed out to weed a small round patch of garden in the outback. Old winter leaves, stalks without any new life, and lots of dead heather had filled the circle. It was good to see the small green leaves of new life popping out and spend an hour in manual drive.

As I was thinking about the various elements of the day: catching up to start new online fee payments, cancelling orthodontist appointments, sending sympathy cards, and a rather terse review of the “upper body” machines at the gym, my attention landed on a most curious and wonderful small brown structure attached to the bark mulch. In fact, it was an entire colony of cups with what looked like little orange spheres floating in them. What was this kind of a thing, I wondered. Very small and very cool.

So today, I trailed down into the library’s basement stacks to track down a field guide to fungi. No such luck. Instead I ran into a colleague who wondered why I didn’t just look it up on the web. “It must be some kind of a Basidiomycetes kind of a thing,” I found myself saying. That wonderful word came from some very remote part of my brain, probably not used since a plant anatomy course in college.

After a little research both in book and on web, I’m pretty sure my little brown cups are part of the gasterocarp clan, either a Crucibulum or a Cyanthus. Known also as splash cups, the rain causes the peridoles that sit in the cup to be thrown out. Did you know the terminal velocity of a raindrop is 8 meters/second? These peridoles go on to release basidiospores…and now we’re back full circle. It IS a basidiomycete kind of thing.

I’m afraid this might be too much news on fungi, what with very severe weather having ripped across the South, and across the pond, all eyes on Westminster Abbey. It was a small moment on a spring afternoon, and I’m grateful.

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