Mushroom And Fungi - Education Essay Example


Fungi are a kingdom of organism which are very important both in terms of ecological and economic role - Mushroom And Fungi introduction. By breaking down dead organic material, they continue the cycle of nutrient through ecosystems. In addition most vascular plants cannot grow without the symbiotic fungi or mycorrhizae that inhabit their roots and supply essential nutrients .Other fungi provide numerous drugs such as (such as penicillin and other antibiotics), foods like mushrooms, truffles and morels, and the bubbles in bread champagne and beer.


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the sister group of animals and part of the Eukaryotic crown group that radiated about a billion years ago, the fungi constitute an independent group equal in rank to that of plants and animals. They share with animals the ability to export hydrolytic enzymes that breakdown  biopolymers ,which can be absorbed for nutrition .Rather than requiring a stomach to accomplish digestion ,fungi live in their own food supply and simply grow into new food as the local environment becomes nutrient depleted .

Most biologist have seen dense filamentous fungal colonies growing on rich nutrient agar plates , but in nature the filaments can be much longer and less dense .When one of the filaments contacts a food supply ,the entire colony mobilizes and reallocates resources to exploit the new food .Should all food become depleted ,sporulation is triggered  .Although the fungal filament and spores  are microscopic, the colony can be very large with individuals of some species rivaling the mass of the largest animals or plants .

Prior to mating in sexual production, individual fungi communicate with other individuals chemically via Pheromones.

Within their varied natural habitats fungi usually are the primary decomposer organism present. Many species are living Saprobes(users of carbon fixed by other organisms)in woody substrates, soils, leaf ,litter ,dead animals, animal exudates .The large cavities eaten out of the living trees by the Wood -decaying fungi provide nest holes for a variety of animals .When there is less nitrogen in the environment surrounding it then it adapts to the situation by having nooses and sticky ends to trap and degrade nematodes and other small animals .Many Fungi are Biotrophs and in this  roles a number of successful groups form a symbiotic associations with plants (including algae);animals (especially anthropods ),and prokaryotes e.g.-lichens, mycorrhizae and leaf and stem endophytes .

Fungi is an important plant pathogens, there are well known associations -fungal parasites of animals. Many times Humans succumb t6p diseases caused by a fungi called Pneumocystis(a type of pneumonia that affects individuals with suppressed immune systems) Coccidioides (valley fever).

Fungal spore may be actively or passively released  for dispersal by several effective methods some are air dispersed ,through the surface of animals ,some are splashed by rain , other are forcibly released for dispersal spores help the organism to survive during  non -conducive environments through resistant cells.



Fungi are characterized by non-mobile bodies (Thalli)constructed  of apically elongating walled filaments (hyphae),a life cycle with sexual and asexual reproduction ,usually from a common Thallus ,haploid Thalli resulting from Zygotic meiosis ,and Heterotrophic nutrition .Spindle pole bodies ,not Centrioles ,usually are associated with the nuclear envelope during cell division .The characteristic wall components are Chitin and Glucans primarily Alpha -Glucans .There are several exceptions to this characteristics like the species of Chitrids .


Fungi also cause a number of plant and animal diseases: in humans, they cause ringworms, athlete’s foot and several more diseases. Because the fungi are more chemically and genetically similar to the animals than other organisms, this makes fungal diseases very difficult to treat. Plant diseases caused by fungi include -rust smuts, and leaf root and stem rots, and may cause severe damage to crops .However a number of fungi ,in particular the east, are important “model organisms” for studying problems in genetics & molecular biology.



It is the fruit (like an apple) of the mushroom “plant” and contains mushroom “seeds” called spores. The body of the mushroom is called mycelium and its individual parts are microscopic. Since the body of the mushroom is usually dispersed over a relatively large area it is rarely noticed. In nature some species of mushrooms may have a body that spreads over hundreds of square miles!

There are around 79 species of mushrooms which is a fungi, found wide spread in northern temperate regions and are either choice edibles, important poisonous species to avoid or very showy woodland denizens. The variety of mushrooms may exceed that of plants, animals and birds combined. There are herds of new species waiting for discovery and naming.

Mushrooms have long been revered by eastern civilizations as both food and medicine & mushroom rituals were practiced in the belief they could produce unusual strength and lead the source to another realm. Tradition has it that there are around 50 varieties with healing properties. Today we know that mushrooms are packed with minerals such as iron, copper and potassium and have a glycaemic index so low that it cannot be measured. Mushrooms have three times the anti-oxidant capacity of tomatoes.



If the body is spread out and microscopic, how do mushrooms grow so quickly? There are two basic reasons:

1) Since they store up compounds between fruiting and most fruit once a year, they have a lot of reserve available to support the mushroom.

2) Mushrooms develop differently than plants or animals do. Plants and animals grow through cell division – to get bigger they have to produce more cells. Cell division is relatively slow and requires a lot of energy. The mushroom body also grows by cell division. However, the mushroom fruit does not grow by cell division. Just about as soon as it starts to develop, a mushroom has almost the same number of cells that the mature mushroom will have. The mushroom increases in size through cell ENLARGEMENT! This means that the cells can balloon up very rapidly. Very little energy is required; basically the cells just enlarge with water. So a mushroom can increase in size as fast as water can be pumped into its cells. Almost overnight a mushroom can go from a pin head to a large mushroom. Mushrooms need water for their fruit to “grow”.

Mushrooms have no skin so they can lose water to the atmosphere very easily. That is why they grow in high humidity (lots of water vapor in the air) conditions. If the humidity is too low the cells lose water faster than it can be “pumped” in and the immature mushroom dries up and dies.

Mushrooms need to breathe just like humans do, except they do not have lungs. Mushroom cells exchange gases directly with the atmosphere. If the body of the mushroom is submerged in water it is comparable to drowning. No oxygen can be exchanged, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which do not need oxygen to thrive) build up, and the mushroom is choked to death. It is almost the same with the mushroom fruit.


If it is too dry they lose too much water and desiccate. However, if it is too wet – the humidity is too high – the excess water prevents any gas exchange and the developing mushroom chokes off.

Like most organisms without thermal regulation (they can not control nor maintain their body temperature), mushrooms grow faster when it is warmer.

A mushroom produces spores instead of seeds. The spore is produced on the gills you can see on the underside of the mushroom. These spores are microscopic and can only be seen under a microscope. However, each mushroom produces hundreds of thousands of spores, and this mass of spores is easy to see.



Mushrooms are the largest group of the fungi. Mushrooms belong to the club fungus group due to their club-like structures. Mushrooms have 4 basic parts.

Ø  The top of the mushroom, the umbrella or the part that grows above the ground is called the CAP.

Ø  Under the cap are the GILLS.

Ø  Inside the gills are the spores. A spore is a reproductive cell protected by a hard casing. A spore can live through very hot, dry or cold weather and still form a new plant.

Ø  The STALK holds the mushroom upright.

Ø  HYPHAE anchor the mushroom to the ground.

Ø  The growing part of the mushroom is underground – this is called the MYCELIUM.

Ø  The mushroom grows a cap in order to produce spores. The actively growing portion is the mycelium. Mushrooms are important decomposers in our environment, although some are poisonous to humans.



When mushrooms reproduce ,they grow a fruiting body that protrudes from the substrate (the ground, wood ,whatever they happen to  be inhabiting )and produces spores .Basically ,a mushroom is a fruiting body that happens to be large enough to see .If one does not collect mushrooms ,one would probably think of much as fruiting bodies shaped like the “normal “mushroom you buy in the market but this is only a small fraction of the mushroom .

However, mushrooms come in all sorts of size, colors, shapes.Yet mushrooms and fungi have no differences .Infact in more scientific terms one can as well call the mushrooms as fungi.



Humanity’s use of mushrooms extends back to Paleolithic time’s .Few people even anthropologists –comprehend how influential mushrooms have been in affecting the course of human evolution. Mushrooms have played pivotal roles in ancient Greece, India and Mesoamerica .True to their beguiling nature fungi have always elicited deep emotional responses: from adulation by those who understand them to outright fear by those who do not.

The historical records reveals that mushrooms have been used for less than benign purposes .Claudius, the second and Pope Clement the seventh were both killed by enemies who poisoned them with deadly Amanitas .Buddha died according to legend, from a mushroom that grew underground .Buddha was given the mushroom by a peasant who believed it to be a delicacy In ancient verse that mushroom was linked to the phrase “pigs foot “, but has never been identified.

The oldest archaeological evidence of mushroom use discovered so far is probably a Tassili image from a cave which dates back to 3500 years the birth of Christ.

The fear of mushroom poisoning pervades every culture, sometimes reaching phobic extremes. The term mycophobic is used to describe all those cultures and individuals where fungi are looked upon with feat and disgust .These kinds of cultures were epitomsed by the English and Irish .Contrast to it we see the presence of mycophilic societies throughout Asia and Eastern Europe, especially the Polish, Russian and Italian peoples. These communities deep love with mushrooms very evident from so many names that they have given to so many varieties.

One investment banker called R.Gorden wasson found that in SOMA: Divine mushroom of Immortality (1976)-the mysterious soma in the Vedic literature, which is a red fruit leading to spontaneous enlightment on ingestion was nothing but a mushroom .the Vedic symbolism carefully disguised its true identitiy: Amanita muscaria.

Many cultures portray it as the archetypal mushroom. Although many Vedic scholars disagree-his findings still stands.Aristotle, Plato and Sophocles all participated in religious ceremonies at Eleusis where an unusual temple honored, the goddess earth –Demeter. Many pilgrims for over two millennia journeyed from Athens to Eleusis.

Upon arriving they gathered at the initiation hall. Inside the temple was a central chamber which hid the fungal concoction .this was served to the pilgrims. Hence the pilgrims who spent their nights there are said to have been come out changed for ever. In this pavilion crowded with pillars, ceremonies occurred known as –Elusian Mysteries. These secrets were never told to the others for the fear of punishment of imprisonment of death. These ceremonies remained well hidden till the early centuries of Christian era.

In 1977, at a mushroom conference on the Olympic Peninsula, R, Gordon Wasson, along with others, postulated that the Eleusinian mysteries where centered on the use of a psychoactive fungi. This was published later and was called the road the Eleusis: Unveiling the secret of the mysteries (1978).

That Aristotle and other founders of Western philosophy followed such intellectual adventures and also that it remained a secret ceremony for 2000 years shows that the fungus rite had deep impact on the evolution of Western consciousness.



Introduction to fungi
Understanding fungi and the characteristics of fungi
Michael Beug. Introduction to mushrooms.

Understanding mushroom
Differences between fungi  and mushrooms

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