<p>All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting body, or the reproduction site, for certain types of fungi. They often live on dead or fallen trees like this one and speed the decomposition process.</p> <p>This <em>Tremella mesenterica</em>, also known as a "jelly fungus" or "witch's butter", is widely recognized because of its brilliant color. Biomedical researchers in China recently discovered that this fungus produces polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate. For this reason it is believed to be a powerful immune enhancer.</p> <p>A close-up view of two types of lichen growing on a boulder in the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda, also known as the "Mountains of the Moon." Lichens have been known to survive in some of the harshest environments on Earth.</p> <p>All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting body, or the reproduction site, for certain types of fungi. They often live on dead or fallen trees like this one and speed the decomposition process.</p> <p>This close-up view shows lichen covering every inch of a small tree branch in the southern Turkish city of Adana. Lichen is a composite organism&mdash;a fungus and a photosynthetic organism (usually algae) living together in a symbiotic relationship.</p> <p>This bright pink fungus grows up the trunk of a tree in Northern California's Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This tree, however, is not a coast redwood tree, which have fungi-resistant bark.</p> <p>A fruiting body of the <em>Ophiocordyceps </em>fungus extends from the head of an infected ant. Ant zombification begins when an <em>Ophiocordyceps</em> fungus shoots spores onto an insect. The parasitic fungus gradually takes over the ant's brain and directs the insect to a cool, moist location. The fungus then kills the ant, and fruiting bodies erupt from the ant's head and spread more spores.</p> <p>This basidiomycete found here in the Norwegian Arctic is a highly toxic type of fungus. Brightly colored like this toadstool, almost all of the members of this phylum are poisonous to humans.</p> <p>This sporing "puffball" is a member of the <span class="bps-event-selector bps-topic-link">Basidiomycota</span> phylum of fungi. Puffballs were historically used in Tibet to make ink by burning the body of the mushroom, grinding up the ashes, and adding water and other liquids.</p> <p>Although slime molds like this are no longer classified as fungi (they were recently reclassified as a type of protozoa), they produce spores in a similar way to fungi. The pink sacs seen here are called sporangia, or the places where spores are produced.</p> <p>The <em>leccinum versipelle</em> seen in these petri dishes is an ectomycorrhizal fungus. These fungi have a symbiotic relationship with plant life in which the fungi form a sheath around the root tip of a plant helping the plant's roots take in water more efficiently. Ectomycorrhizal fungi are essential to forest ecosystems.</p> <p>This <em>hericium</em> mushroom is also called the "white spined icicle mushroom" because of its long, white tendrils. <em>Hericia</em> are edible, easily recognizable, and grow around the world. Biomedical researchers and bioprospecters have recently taken an interest in its medicinal properties, which may include the ability to slow the spread of cancer in humans.</p> <p>The <em>cordyceps</em> fungus—commonly known as the "caterpillar fungus"—is seen here parasitizing a small insect. There are over 400 species within the <em>cordyceps</em> genus, almost all of which survive by parasitizing other small organisms.</p>

This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Partner Encyclopedia of Life

  • Introduction
    This podcast about fungi explores a life form that's all around us, yet rarely seen. Working under cover, it sends its ghostly tendrils into almost every corner of the terrestrial world. We associate it with death and decay, but life as we know it would be impossible without it. Come for a walk in the woods with Ari Daniel Shapiro and learn how this mysterious form of life, neither animal nor vegetable, shapes our world.

    Strategies for Using EOL Podcasts in a Variety of Learning Environments

    • Play the first fifteen seconds of the podcast and then pause it. Invite students to try and answer the riddle before playing the rest.
    • Have students write down terms they are unfamiliar with while listening to the podcast. Then define them as a group, afterwards.
    • Have students close their eyes and visualize what is being discussed in the podcast. Then have them produce a sketch based on their interpretations.
    • Have students preview several of the podcasts found on the Encyclopedia of Life site and choose the one they find most interesting. Have students research the species or species group and present to their peers.
    • Pose an open-ended question before students listen to the podcast, and have them discuss their ideas before and after in small groups.
    • Have students determine what they think the key message of this podcast is. Was the host effective in getting his or her message across?
    1. What part of a fungus is the mushroom?

      A mushroom is the fruit body of a fungus.

    2. What is the relationship between fungi and plants?

      Myccorhizal fungi attach to the roots of plants and help absorb water and nutrients and share them with the plants and in exchange, the fungi get some of the sugars stored within the plant roots. Fungi also help digest and decompose plant matter.

    3. Why might an ecologist like Lynn Body spend her time studying fungi?

      Ecologists or other scientists who study fungi, called mycologists, study fungi because it is important to understand the role that fungi play in forests and other ecosystems.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    decompose Verb

    to decay or break down.

    ecologist Noun

    scientist who studies the relationships between organisms and their environments.

    fungi Plural Noun

    (singular: fungus) organisms that survive by decomposing and absorbing nutrients in organic material such as soil or dead organisms.

    mycelium Noun

    (plural: mycelia) vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like, tubular filaments.

    mycologist Noun

    scientist who studies fungi.

    mycology Noun

    study of fungi.

    mycorrhiza Noun

    symbiotic relationship between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant.

    nutrient Noun

    substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient
    organism Noun

    living or once-living thing.

    plant Noun

    organism that produces its own food through photosynthesis and whose cells have walls.