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Sporulation: How Do Cup Fungi Reproduce?

Cup Fungi Sporulation

Most of us are familiar with the idea of fungal “spores” - the dusty sneeze of a mushroom that is essential for reproduction.

The typical toadstool disperses its spores through parallel gills or cylindrical tubes that are attached to the underside of the cap. Cup fungi, however, can be thought of as inverted mushroom caps. I like to think of them as little bowls, yawns, ears, or satellites pressed to the earth. These fungi store their spores within specialized cells along the cup’s surface known as “asci” (plural, or “ascus,” singular). Fungi with asci are known as Ascomycetes.

When the spores of an ascomycete become mature, the asci of the fungi begin to absorb water, thereby building internal pressure. At mid-maturity that pressure becomes extreme. If the fungi are disturbed in any way, their asci rupture all at once causing the spores to forcibly eject and puff dramatically from the cup. Totally qualifies as a fungal sneeze, right?

This is the process of “sporulation”! - the method by which fungi and a variety of other organisms release spores for reproduction.

In each of the below examples, air being blown into the mouth of the cups has imitated a gust of wind and caused the fungi to “sporate.” Each video first exhibits spore dispersal at normal speed, then half speed.

"Recurved Cup" - Peziza repanda

5" diameter


"Black Jelly Jug" - Urnula padeniana

2" diameter


"Scarlet Elf Cup" - Sarcoscypha coccinea

.5 - 1.75" diameter


"Orange Peel Fungus" - Aleuria aurantia

.5 - 1.75" diameter



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