When mushrooms go to war


It’s actually incorrect to say that these are mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungus, not the fungus itself. What you are seeing in the petri dish is mycelium, the “body” of the fungus itself. mushroom : apple :: mycelium : tree

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It’s actually incorrect to say that these are mycelia. Mycelia are the undifferentiated hyphae of fungus, and together they create the thallus of most fungi. What you are seeing in the petri dish is the thallus, the world for the “body” of the fungus itself. mycelium : limbs :: thallus : tree

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The weapons in the wars among fungi and actinobacteria, which are similar in habit, are where we got our first antibiotics from. The discovery of pencillin was after all a lot like this: mold growing outward on a plate, and bacteria perishing as it got near them.

It’s a metonymy. In casual English people refer to plants like irises and forget-me-nots as flowers, even though those are technically only the reproductive structures the herbs produce; so it is with mushrooms. Not using technical definitions is not the same thing as being incorrect.


Radical! Sincere thanks for dropping that knowledge bomb on me!

That’s a good point. It’s not incorrect, and metonymy as you described is
perfectly reasonable - thank you. My reaction comes from my days as a
forager in college. People would get on my case for “killing fungus,” which
prompted me to clarify the misunderstanding that mushrooms are not
themselves the fungus.

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I love mushrooms. I can say that. I love fungus… that gets me weird looks.

When I introduce people to the wonderful world of fungi, as the third kingdom of life on Earth, I start with mushrooms, because they are friendly looking, and during the right season are everywhere, and when you start to look you see hundreds, where you never saw any. Then explain that most of the forest’s diversity isn’t above ground, but in the first six inches of leaf litter and soil… and how these little guys (the mushrooms) eat up all the dropped leaves and turn it into stuff you can see again, and how if you were able to watch it in time lapse, the mushroom pops up, releases its spores from its little gills, and turns back into… turn over a leaf… mycellium! White cottony stuff.

Because explaining that fungi only eat dead things, and produce anti-bacterial and anti-fungal chemicals as well as hyphae that can bust rocks, as well as the exoskeletons of insects, or toenails, or live on your junk in the case of jock itch, and some pop up their phallic fruiting bodies, which ejaculate billions of little spores you can’t see, then wither away into a rotten goop, with bugs and flies in it, doesn’t create an open minded fungus fan. I mean… fungi get names like Hideous Gomphideous and Bleeding Tooth for good reason.

Fungi are fascinating, but often truly and amazingly gross.


Wow people got mad at you for killing fungus?

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Just another effect of being infected by brain spores.

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Banana Slugs find wacky things to get indignant about.

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Fungi can be downright scary at times…

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