Our Wild Things columnist Eric Brown offers a book to help you make the most of Mushroom Day in the UK next month, but warns readers that getting too close to these organisms can have unexpected results.
They are probably the largest army of living things on the planet. They appear everywhere, from deserts to forests and frozen tundra, and can invade our bodies, especially between our toes.
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No one knows exactly how many species of fungi inhabit the Earth: only that it would take several human lives to count them all.
It took generations for scientists to ponder their classification, initially suggesting that they might be sponges or some form of animal, such as worms.
Even now, there are so many mushrooms that many still don’t have an English name.
New types of mushrooms, especially microfungi, are constantly being discovered, in 2017 alone there were 37 of them.
Mushrooms are the most familiar type of mushroom and the next few weeks will be the best time to go out and find them. They like warm, humid fall weather.
If you want to learn more about mushrooms before you go on a quest, I suggest reading The Secret Life of Mushrooms by Alia Whiteley. This beautifully written little book traces Alia’s personal relationship and fascination with mushrooms, all interspersed with a treasure trove of facts about species that many of us hardly ever get a second glance at.
There are over 15,000 species of wild mushrooms in the UK alone, so your chances of finding some are good. Alia, the novelist, is fond of some titles: Stinking Horn, Swamp Bell, Sparkle Fairy, Rubber Ear, Dead Man’s Fingers, and one that children love for its rawness. There are so many others that you can choose your favorites.
Fungi really must be the most numerous living organisms on our planet. And from that. Alia reveals that the mushrooms that grow on rockets and other space equipment have indeed gone to infinity and beyond. She writes about the magical smells of mushrooms. Apparently, a scientific smell test in 2001 on 36 volunteers produced unexpected results. When asked to smell a rare mushroom that only grows on lava flows in Hawaii, six female volunteers reported experiencing a mild orgasm!
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Here are some more mushroom facts from Alia: Mushrooms are closer to animals than plants, the largest living organism on the planet is a mushroom that spans 9,650,000 square meters, a mushroom was found on the space station, and mycophobia is the fear of fungi, as studied. in the cult classic film Matango (1963).
Alia’s entertaining book can be called a mycyclopedia of mushrooms.
It will no doubt encourage you to get involved in the fight against fungus, perhaps on UK Fungus Day on Saturday 8th October.