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Winter 2021-22

Secret Life of Mushrooms


by Soubarna Mishra

Have you ever wondered how the ground somehow magically absorbs everything on its surface? Fallen leaves, dead bugs, animals and trees.

Where does everything go? How does this massive ground cleanup occur? What lives in the ground that turns everything into rich, healthy soil for new life to grow? This ground cleanup is managed by our good friends, fungi.

Under the ground a massive network of interconnected living cells helps break down and decompose dead organisms and turn them into organic matter. Fungi feed on decomposing organisms.


Amazing Facts About Fungi

  • Fungi are neither a plant nor an animal. They have their own kingdom, called "Fungi”.
  • There are about 3.8 million fungal species on Earth. We have discovered only 5% of them.
  • Fungi are found everywhere, on land, in oceans, in our backyards and even inside our bodies.
  • Human life as we know today would be impossible without fungi. They help us with food, growth and survival.
  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungus. They appear
    like a cap with gills under them, attached to a stem. They come in many colors and shapes. The larger portion of the organism, which is the mycelium, is hidden under the ground.
  • Some fungi can be harmful to plants and are called plant pathogens because they infect and destroy plants.
  • When eaten, some fungi can harm humans, making them very sick and even causing death.
  • Only 0.5% of mushrooms known to humans are poisonous. Yet caution must be applied every time while interacting with mushrooms because their looks can deceive. The most familiar or innocent looking mushroom can be very toxic to both humans and animals.

Sources: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74109.html

This Utah State University’s Department of Biology link is an in-depth research resource about fungi. https://www.usu.edu/herbarium/education/fun-facts-about-fungi/what-are-fungi