Sunday, 27 April 2014

WHAT IS A MUSHROOM?


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Mushrooms and toadstools seem to magically appear overnight and have been the subject of mystery and folklore for many centuries.  


Fungi are classified separately from plants and form their own kingdom.  Fungi are composed entirely of minute underground threads called hyphae, and theses form a dense network called mycelium.  This lies buried under the ground or tree trunk or whatever substrate the fungus grows on.   

Mycelium is so small that it cannot be seen by the naked eye.  These can survive below the surface for many years and the mushroom we can see above ground is in fact the fruiting body, the fungus equivalent of a flower. 

Fungi reproduce by producing microscopic spores. A mushroom is the only reproductive part of the fungi and exists solely to produce and disperse its spores.  These are dispersed from the mushroom to a new area, and germinate to form mycelium.  


This mycelium spreads and when its comes in contact with another mycelium of the same species they will they fuse.  If there is enough food material, and if conditions are suitable regarding light, temperature and moisture levels than a fruiting body will be produced.  

Unlike plants fungi do not contain chlorophyll and so cannot photosynthesis their food.  Instead the mycelium secretes enzymes which breaks down materials in the substrate to obtain nutrients for the fungus.  

Mycelium is constantly expanding outwards from a central point in a ever enlarging circle.  Fairy rings in grass are an example of this, and are caused by mycelium growth, often originating from rotting plant material.


The term mushroom can be used to referred to cultivated varieties we buy in shops or any fungus with a mushroom shaped fruiting body. Traditionally we refer to toadstools as anything that is poisonous, but as several species of mushroom are also poisonous the terms today have lost their original meanings.

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