New plant-based leather made from mushrooms

Originally published at:  New plant-based leather made from mushrooms | Boing Boing


It’s kind of weird to call it a “plant-based” leather if it’s made from fungi.

Technically fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants.


Mushroom masterwizard Paul Stamets wears a hat made from Amadou, a type of shelf fungus that grows on trees iirc


I’ll have to check out how they make it waterproof/resistant. If it is the way I’ve seen before of using SCOBY or or compressed Reishi, it has to be coated with a water proofing agent of some kind.

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I was excited, some years ago, to see work being done with bacterial cellulose as a material for clothing. All the investigations being done with it seem to have completely disappeared in recent years, though, so I’m guessing there were issues with its qualities that made it unsuitable. (I’m guessing stiffness and durability were serious problems.) This seems even more exciting as it has many of the same advantages (e.g. grow to shape) but is clearly a lot more practical a material.

Not nearly as weird as “plant-based leather” that’s made out of plastic, though. (And in the various classification schemes that separate organisms into “plants” and “animals,” fungi fall squarely on the “plant” side.)


Yup. If they were running a botany conference it might be fair to complain about lumping fungi in with plants. But they’re selling leather alternatives. For all the important purposes in this context – from the husbandry of the source organisms to the handling and processing of materials to marketing the product to the target audience – describing the product as “plant-based” is accurate.

Meaning can’t be separated from context.

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The issue lies with meat production, not leather.

Cattle hides, an obligatory byproduct of beef and dairy consumption, will be around as long as Americans like cheeseburgers, steaks and ice cream.


“… if you’re in a biology context.”

“plant-based” is always in a biology context if the expression has any meaning


But that’s kind of like saying “in a classification scheme that separates animals into mammals and fish birds fall squarely in the fish category.”

Using such a classification scheme wouldn’t make any sense based on our current understanding of biology, especially since we now know that birds are more closely related to mammals than they are to fish.

If it isn’t actually made from plants why not just say “animal-free” or “leather alternative” or even just “fungi-based” instead of “plant-based?”


There are contexts other than biology where it makes perfect sense to include mushrooms as plants. Just look at the produce section. Dietetically, culinarily, agriculturally, even in terms of food safety, everything important about mushrooms as a food product makes them vegetables.

Good thing this isn’t biology class.


(cw: don’t read the comments)


The lead singer of Led Zeppelin is definitely a plant. :wink:


It’s called the “produce section,” not the “plant section.” No mislabeling needed. We don’t say eggs are “milk-based” just because they are in the dairy section.


Absolutely. The trick is that there are three kind of related biological concepts that all used to be more or less just called “plants”:

  1. An evolutionary lineage;
  2. Things that live by photosynthesis producing oxygen;
  3. Things that have vegetative growth patterns.

We haven’t straightened out all of the terms. The first is for sure the most unambiguous and useful meaning. But even biologists will often talk about things like phytoplankton as “microscopic plants” even though many are unrelated, because what else do you call them?

I think fungi are kind of the same…by now we know they aren’t really plants, but they have cell walls and indeterminate growth patterns and spores like at least cryptogams, get studied by botanists, and can be eaten by vegans. Clearly often when we say “plant” we mean mostly true plants but also things like them and algae too, and in absence of another term I’m not sure what else to say.


And blackberries and raspberries aren’t berries. Still not going to put avocados and cucumbers in my berry cobbler, though.

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Nah, they’d fall squarely in the “mammal” category.

It would be more accurate to call this “vegan leather,” but that also includes crap like plastic, and fungi fit into the category of “flora” so… /shrug I also wonder if the plant material the fungi are grown upon doesn’t end up contributing some cellulose that’s part of the final structure. So it might be, in part, truly plant-based.

But we do call the white fluid that’s made from rice and almonds, etc. “milk” despite it not coming from a mammal.

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If this was a situation where the only possible terms were leather or “plant-based leather” that’d make sense. But in this context, there is no reason whatsoever to refer to this as “plant-based.”



Not if you used some arbitrary dividing line like “any animal that doesn’t have fur and nurse its young is a fish.” Which makes about as much sense as “any organism that isn’t an animal is a plant.”

It turns out that’s not a good way to do things at all, but calling that arbitrary and nonsensical is pretty harsh to every naturalist from Aristotle to Linnaeus and on into the 1800s…and if you want to recognize fungi as non-plants, I think into the 1900s too. Just because we have learned better doesn’t mean it was senseless.

Flora seems like a pretty good word for the third category I said above. :slight_smile: