Sunday, 6 November 2016

Post 445 - Fabulously Fascinating Fungi - Part 4

Fly Agaric's and dewy cobwebs on a misty morning
Hey everyone, Post 445 today and I don't think I could let Autumn go by without a post on fungi. I've been seeing them around and about most places I've been and some are very pretty, They are great things to look out for when you're walking around this time of year.

A fungi cluster on a stump at Silton Forest
I've looked at fungi before, but I didn't realise how much until I had a search back through my blog! My first post on them was on Day 8 of my year of nature after a walk on the moors. I found some more at Fairburn Ings and included them in a post on Day 18 called Puffy and Fluffy.  A good while after that I came back to them and started to write about them as a species.  Day 321 - Fascinating Fungi Part 1 was about their biology, Day 330 - Fabulous Fungi - Part 2 - Useful Yeast! was about how useful one fungi is to us (and has some really cool pics in it) and Day 370 - Fabulously Fascinating Fungi Part 3 was about other uses of different fungi. I've covered particular species too like the Jelly ear fungus. I didn't realise just how much they have fascinated me!

Puffballs at Silton Forest
I've covered how life is pretty dependent on them - how the Mycelium is made up of lots of fine threads called Hyphae which secrete enzymes that break down dead plant material and how they can have a symbiotic relation with plants most of which rely on Mycorrhizal fungi around their roots to provide nutrients and water acting as an extension to their roots. The fungi get some sugars from the plants in exchange.

I've also found out how big they can be, probably the biggest living organism on earth  - a 2,384 acre area of a Honey Fungus Mycelium was found in Oregon, USA. It's estimated that it was 1,665 football fields large! That's a lot of mushroom!

So with all that what more could I find out about them?

Breaking down a log...
Well what I didn't realise is how ancient they are....

One was found to be 440 million years old! It was found fossilised and has been said to have 'kick started life of Earth' because it filled a gap of evolution by beginning to rot and break down the soil so that other plants could grow and so that the animals could come out of the sea and feed on these plants.

People have said it filled a gap and that around the time it existed pretty much all life was confined to the sea, apart from this. This fungi provides evidence that plants had colonised the land before any animals had left the sea.

This fungi is called Tortotubus and since they have mycelium that carries the nutrients around to the other parts of the fungi, the ground around it got some nutrients helping the Earth to become the lush green environment it is today.

A candelabra or coral fungus.
Nor did I know how old they can be...

I've talked about how ancient some forms of fungi are, but age is a different thing. Pretty much everyone knows about fairy rings, circles of mushrooms with a bit of mythology thrown over them. But what you might not know is that the bigger the circles are, the older it is! Fairy rings start as a spore and the mycelium grows out from this original spot. When they fruit, that is when we see the mushrooms and toadstools, you can see the area the mycelium covers. The older the fungus the further the mycelium spreads.

Remember the fungus I mentioned earlier, the one that covers 2,384 acres, well to get that big it must be at least 2.400 years old! It could be much older though and scientists think it might be as much as 8,650 years old!

So, that's altogether pretty amazing. They are the largest, probably the oldest (certainly one of the oldest) living things on earth and the first living organisms to populate dry land and without them we probably wouldn't exist!

Fungi can be amazing colours as well as everything else!
No wonder I find them so

Here are some links to some more information:

Scientific American - the largest organism on earth is a fungus

The Telegraph - Meet the 440-million-year-old Scottish fungus which kick-started the human race

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Nice blog, Zach,very informative as well as colourful. Keep up the good work

  2. Stunning photos here Zach, and you're right, fungi are so fascinating and never fail to make me smile. - Tasha