Autumn Is The Time for the Fungus Kingdom

The fungus kingdom is for many mysterious and not a little creepy. As the seasons march on into our winter months the cool weather and rain combine to awaken the mushrooms and their relatives. The part of the organism that we witness is a small part of it, the majority of the organism dwells unseen underground.  Autumn is the season when conditions are right for these creatures to reproduce, spread their spores and hope for a new generation.
One of my favourites in the mushroom category is the Shaggy Manes(Coprinus comatus). This variety is so called because of its rough appearance reminding some of a horse’s rough mane. They are easily identified and non-poisonous.

Other fungi are not so safe. Some ancient Romans and the Borgias developed a reputation for poisoning their enemies.
Fungi have some unique properties, combining characteristics usually seen only in plants or in animals. They may be poisonous growing in one area and non-lethal in another. They may have weird cells with numerous nuclei. They can reproduce sexually or not depending on conditions.
Whether you appreciate these creatures or not, they do affect your everyday life. They can cause diseases – ringworm, athletes’ foot. Antibiotics were developed from humble mold. Fungi are among the few organisms that can break down the conifer needles in the forest to speed humus building. We eat them with gusto and employ them to make some of our more exotic cheeses.
So when you are out walking in the local park this autumn take the time to notice the mushrooms and puffballs and reflect on an often ignored kingdom.

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