The Uniqueness of Fungi

Fungi are very unique.

Moreover, they do not conform perfectly to the class of animals or plants.

This assumption is valid because, by definition, plants create for themselves their food source so as to be completely independent. But the mushrooms must instead absorb it from the soil, as they are not able to do photosynthesis.

Many insectivores have an armor composed of chitin, a polysaccharide, which allows them to protect themselves from attacks and to have greater protection against exogenous stress and shock. Chitin is also present in fungal cells.

Over the years the mycelium, the vegetative apparatus of the fungi, comes to life and expands into the ground. Its roots can be very deep and reach 50 cm, allowing them to establish multiple connections with the humus and the bark of trees adjacent to the expansion.

The mycelium is composed of hyphae. The image that you should have is a carpet made up of thin filaments that intertwine with each other ensure its smooth texture and durability. Hyphae allow refugees to expel digestive enzymes, and recognize one another if they are similar species or intend to establish future cooperation.

Moreover, if along with these favorable conditions there is also a particular genetic combination and a rather favorable environment, the perimeter area of their domain that can not grow and thrive for millennia.

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This might sound a little strange, if before you could only think of the fungus as a solitary body, lumberjack, and shy to light. But it is always the species that make a difference …

For example in the forests of  the Oregon State there is a mycelium dated to 2400 years, which covers 2000 acres and weighing 660 tons. As well as in Switzerland it was taken over a stretch of at least 120 acres, which has gained ground along thousands of years.

In fact, only these figures are sufficient to classify the mushrooms community as the largest among the “living” on Earth. But how does a fungal species to create this wonderful “network” of connections?

A fungus is very expansive. Very social to put it informally. It does not wait to come into contact with the many logs at its disposal along the path of colonization.
Fungus and tree come into close contact with the mycelium, which allows them to share the nutrients available in the soil.
Creating a network  – so thick and complex – allows mushrooms and trees to better organize the resources available in their environment and optimize its defenses against a future attack of insects and parasites. These are also looking for protection and nourishment (glucose and minerals) with the arrival of bad weather.
These connections make the mushrooms of “intermediaries” among network participants “forest” that allows the exchange of valuable information.

The mycelium of a fungus growth depends (mainly) by nutrients (glucose and polysaccharides) received from the trees which offers friendship and cooperation; present and future. If we think of the fact that a tree has to pay a third of its total production of resources. We should be careful in understanding this data, starting from our anthropocentric perspective of interpersonal relationships.

In this sense, The fungus is not the tree parasite.

Nothing is left to chance when two organisms are so linked, and employees for efficient management of available resources. The fungus (always thanks to the mycelium composed of hyphae) feels that the shaft with which it is in contact with perceives their own roots. And depending on the type of sensed information, the fungus is able to – in due time – produce specific plant hormones.

Fungal Mycelium grown in Petri Plates

Perhaps this point is little difficult to associate: hormones and mushrooms. I can imagine.

In fact, the discovery of this type of hormones is linked to the toxic effect study produced by a fungus called Gibberella fujikuroi. From which it is isolated the gibberellic acid (GA3).
This plant hormone has as main characteristic the stimulation of cell expansion and the increase of the growth of the tissues of plants. This results in both their increase in diameter is a relative genetic improvement.

The presence of this hormone in the soil allows to obtain an advance in flowering in floriculture, a better quantity of the peel in citrus fruits, an interruption of dormancy of the seeds (that is to say the period of latent life of a plant as a result of unfavorable environmental conditions: It occurs in the seeds or underground shoots as rhizomes, bulbs, tubers, or even in the air plants), and a recovery by late frosts that burn much fruit in the bud ruining the harvest season.

Mushrooms are very sensitive. They eliminate heavy metals in the soil (such as radioactive cesium present in the area near the disaster occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986) and take him on our plates in the form of coveted and prized porcini. That’s why you have to be an expert picker, or clever in buying this “raw material” in supermarkets or farmers knowledge.

Maybe between fungi and trees, between the two it is still the second species to win. Which as a result of adverse weather conditions, or very variable (such as those of recent years for instance) does not hesitate to replace the seasonal friends if they are suffering. This could happen as a result of an attack of pathogenic bacteria, or even just for a percentage to the limit of the common contaminants present in the agricultural and forest land.

In summary, the tree keep for itself more “Fungal choices” and it is only if the last available in his environment community begins to suffer, that it includes at problems. Instead fungi and their mirabilis network, which at first seemed to be the pirate ship of the forest, able to conquer lands and cavities, it is now so vulnerable to disappear from the plant biodiversity manuals along the course of a few seasons; no more reverent to the canons of alternation.


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