Mushrooms, or toadstools, are the fruiting body common to many species of fungi and are used to store and release spores into the environment. A mushroom is made from a collection of fungal cells called hyphae, which are woven together to produce a spore bearing mushroom.
Where can mushrooms be found?
Many species of fungi would be almost completely inconspicuous were it not for their large mushrooms because the rest of their tissue is hidden within the substrate they are feeding on, e.g. wooden logs or decaying leaves. Mushrooms can be found in most of the Earth’s environments but are particularly common in damp areas where their fungal bodies are most efficient at decomposing.
A mushroom is an example of a basidiocarp, a reproductive structure common to all species of fungi within the division Basidiomycota. The word ‘basidium’ refers to the pedestal-like structures of the fungi within the division. These structures are also responsible for their common name, the club fungi.
Why do fungi produce mushrooms?
The purpose of mushrooms is to bear spores and release them into the environment. Any given mushroom may house and release as many as a billion spores. The spores are then carried by the wind or water and germinate if they land in a nice moist environment with a good food source. This method of dispersal has allowed for single species of fungi to be found all around the globe.
How are mushrooms important?
Mushrooms are of huge economic importance especially in Asia and Europe where most of the world’s mushrooms are grown and eaten. They have been harvested and cultivated for centuries for their nutritional value and taste. The most common market sold mushroom is Agaricus bisporus, or the common white mushroom, which is considered safe to eat (by mushroom standards) but does in fact have toxins which are destroyed during cooking. Many mushrooms can be fatally poisonous and eating wild mushrooms should be avoided unless you have a good knowledge of which mushrooms are safe to eat.
Last edited: 25 May 2015