Are Mushrooms the biggest and Oldest organisms on earth?

Imagine taking a stroll in the forest and coming across a 100-ton mushroom. This specimen would be bigger than a blue whale and would extend through nearly 40 acres of soil.

Well, you might not need to continue imagining as this mushroom actually does exist right now.  I am not referring to a magic mushroom from the Alice in wonderland world. 

This particular fungus lives in a forest near Crystal Falls in upper Michigan. 

Its name is  Armillaria gallica.  

Armillaria gallica

This particular Funghi is is a honey mushroom that is quite common and important ecologically for its wood decay capabilities. It lives inside the soil and sprouts little mushrooms almost like tentacles above the ground. When walking through the forest you might think that the mushrooms that you see are individual little sprouts, but in fact, they are not. They come from one giant underground form. 

The particular specimens that we are referring to began Around 1500 to 10 000 years ago. Two spores coming from the same mother mushroom mated, and have been growing without stopping ever since. That is a very long time. One might almost wonder if mushrooms have the potential of immortality.

 This Funghi spends its life probing the soil, seeking woody debris to recycle. 

This is not the largest fungus ever found.

Two forest pathologists, Ken Russel of the State Department of Natural Ressources and Terry Shaw of the U.S. Forest Service have been studying an even larger species near mount Adams in South Western Washington.

This particular fungus is the size of three blue whales. 

Armillaria Ostoyae

Its name is Armillaria Ostoyae and she is determined to be 2500 years old. She originates from the spores of a parent fungus in Ontario Canada and then grew into today’s 440 tons mass that covers 1500 acres. 

That’s one big mushroom. This particular specimen likes to feed on pine trees. Younger trees that are below ten years of age are more susceptible to infection and eventual death. 

A little about earth’s mushroom history

Between 420 and 350 million years ago, the earth’s forests were completely opposite of the forests that we know today. Mushrooms were between 8 meters tall (24 feet) with trunks larger than a meter (three feet) while the trees were almost like bushes, only a few feet tall.  I believe that imagination always comes from somewhere. Maybe Alice in Wonderland wasn’t so far fetched after all.

Microbiology, principles, and explorations. Jacquelyn G. Black, 5th edition

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