15 February 2013

Five Fact Friday: Fungi

  1. There are believed to be between 700,000 and 5.1 million different species of fungi on Earth. If we go with the upper limit, that means we currently only know 5% of them.
  2. Beneath every mushroom, or fruiting body of fungus, is a network of thread-like hyphae. They create network of threads called mycelium that provide the nutrients to keep the organism alive. These threads are so tiny that in just 16 cubic cm of soil up to 13 kilometres of mycelium can be found.
  3. It is believed that fungi were the first organism to leave the seas and colonise the land. It is thought that they ventured on to land in the form of lichens around 1.3 billion years ago.
  4. The largest known specimen of fungus, Armillaria solidipes, is also the largest known organism in the world. It was found inn Oregon by Catherine Parks and extended over 900 hectares, which is around the same size as 1260 football pitches. Estimates of its weight go from 7000 tonnes to 35,000 tonnes and it may have been growing continuously from between 2400 years and 7200 years.
  5. The largest collection of fungi species is at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. They have over 1.25 million individual specimens in their fungarium; including Alexander Fleming's original culture of penicillin and species first discovered by Charles Darwin.

Benson, W. (2012) Kingdom of Plants, London, Collins.

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