Fungi are one of the most widely misunderstood organisms in nature, and it’s not hard to tell why. They can come in a variety of shapes, some that resemble some pretty ugly images, and they are associated with death, such as living on dead trees and some being poisonous. So far they sound like something we’d be better off without. Though some kinds of fungi can have harmful effects, many kinds are vital to the environment.
These organisms are not plants or animals, they belong to their own kingdom, kingdom Fungi. One of the most widely known species in this kingdom are those of the mushrooms. They lack chlorophyll and are therefore unable to create their own food through photosynthesis. Instead they use different relationships with the living or dead organisms around them, two of which are saprophytism and symbiosis.
Fungi help largely to decompose many dead plants and animals in a relationship called saprophytism. We are able to go into a forest without having to worry about piles of dead matter; God has it all taken care of behind the scenes, thank goodness! Furthermore, the nutrients from the decomposing matter is returned to the soil to be used again.
In a symbiotic relationship, fungi growing on trees are beneficial. The trees get important minerals from the mushrooms and in return the mushrooms are given glucose. So, just because a tree has mushrooms on it, it does not necessarily mean it is getting decomposed. Symbiotic relationships also dwell within many other plants. The underground branches of fungi help plants immensely by swapping nutrients. The success of a seedling growing may be up to five times greater if it has fungi helping it out.
Finally, people have been able to use fungi for the control of crop pests. Fungi spores are sprayed over crops to kill the threatening insects that could cause major destruction. As opposed to chemicals, this is usually cheaper and safer for the environment.
A lot has been learned about how fungi can and have helped our environment. I’m sure there is plenty of research still to be done out there and who knows how fungi will be able to be used beneficially in the future. It is amazing how something as unsightly as fungi, can make such a difference in our world.
Over this last year I have enjoyed taking photos of interesting mushrooms. Some I have found resemble two of my favorite foods! Below I have included my favorite mushroom photos. I will leave further research of ugly mushrooms up to you. ;)