Hidden beneath the surface and entangled in the roots of Earth’s astonishing and diverse plant life, there exists a biological superhighway linking together the members of the plant kingdom in what researchers call the “wood wide web”. This organic network operates much like our internet, allowing plants to communicate, bestow nutrition, or even harm one another.
The network is comprised of thin threads of fungus known as mycelium that grow outwards underground up to a few meters from its partnering plant, meaning that all of the plant life within a region is likely tapped into the network and connected to one another. The partnership of the roots of plants and the fungi is known as mycorrhiza and is beneficial for both parties involved; plants provide carbohydrates to the fungi and in exchange, the fungi aids in gathering water and providing nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to its partnering plant.
This fungal network has been found to allow plants to aid one another in growth and flourishing. University of British Columbia graduate Suzanne Simard was the first to show that trees such as the Douglas fir and Paper birch were capable of transferring carbon to smaller trees that may not be receiving enough sunlight, allowing seedlings to grow in the shade of other trees. Simard believes that many of the world’s seedlings would not be able to survive if it weren’t for the lifeline this network provides.
A study conducted by Ren Sen Zeng of the South China Agricultural University found that this interconnectivity also allows for plants to warn one another of potential harm. In the study, the team grew potted pairs of tomato plants where some of the pairs were allowed to form mycorrhizae. When the fungal networks had formed, one plant of each pair was sprayed with Alternaria solani, a fungus that causes early blight disease in plant life. Air-tight plastic bags were used to assure there was no above ground interaction. After 65 hours, the team tried to infect the second plant of each pair and found that those with mycelia bonds were far less likely to contract the blight and had much lower levels of damage if they did contract it than those with no mycelia.
A similar study was done by University of Aberdeen graduate David Johnson and a team of colleagues that showed Broad Beans also utilized the fungal network to eavesdrop on one another for impending danger. As hungry aphids fed on the leaves of one of the Broad Bean plants, the plants connect via mycelia began to excrete their anti-aphid chemical defenses, while those that were not connected had no reaction.
"Some form of signalling was going on between these plants about herbivory by aphids, and those signals were being transported through mycorrhizal mycelial networks."
Like our internet, this fungal connectivity is also susceptible cyber crime, terrorism, and even warfare. Some plants, such as the Phantom Orchid, do not have the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis and must leech the necessary nutrients for survival from surrounding plants. Other plants, such as Golden Marigolds and American Black Walnut Trees have been found to release toxins into the network to hinder the growth of surrounding plants in the fight for water and light.
Some research suggests that animals such as insects and worms may be able to detect subtle exchanges of nutrients through the network, allowing them to more easily find savory roots to feed on; however, this has never been conclusively demonstrated in experimentation.
"These fungal networks make communication between plants, including those of different species, faster, and more effective. We don't think about it because we can usually only see what is above ground. But most of the plants you can see are connected below ground, not directly through their roots but via their mycelial connections."
The more we learn about this phenomenon, the more our understanding of the plant life of our planet will continue to change. Perhaps one day, we may be able to peacefully map out these complex fungal networks to appreciate them in their entirety.
Fleming, Nic. "Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus." BBC Earth. N.p., 11 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Harley, J. L., and J. S. Waid. "A Method of Studying Active Mycelia on Living Roots and Other Surfaces in the Soil." Sciencedirect. Department of Botany, University of Oxford, England, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
It's an information superhighway that speeds up interactions between a large, diverse population of individuals. It allows individuals who may be widely separated to communicate and help each other out. But it also allows them to commit new forms of crime.
No, we're not talking about the internet, we're talking about fungi. While mushrooms might be the most familiar part of a fungus, most of their bodies are made up of a mass of thin threads, known as a mycelium. We now know that these threads act as a kind of underground internet, linking the roots of different plants. That tree in your garden is probably hooked up to a bush several metres away, thanks to mycelia.
The more we learn about these underground networks, the more our ideas about plants have to change. They aren't just sitting there quietly growing. By linking to the fungal network they can help out their neighbours by sharing nutrients and information – or sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals through the network. This "wood wide web", it turns out, even has its own version of cybercrime. Read more.......
Fungi Garden Workshops
This mushroom can perennialize and take resident in your garden soil, coming back year after year if it can find a source of hardwood chips to feed on. King Stropharia tastes earthy, like asparagus cooked in a splash of wine, meaty and delicious. Both the cap and the stem are edible, so don’t trim and toss the stem like other mushrooms! It is called King Stropharia because the mushrooms can get very large, but they are best to eat when young and firm, when the caps are tight to prevent bug infestation.
KING STROPHARIA IS GREAT FOR YOUR GARDEN
King Stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annulata), also called the “Garden Giant” or “Wine Cap” mushroom, is very good at cleaning soil and water as well. Our chicken house has King Stropharia mycelium threaded through the soil all around it, eating woodchips and straw bedding, forming a mycoremediation barrier for reducing and eliminating coliform bacteria.
Our gardens also have King Stropharia colonizing and enhancing the soil, building and binding the soil together for the plants, unlocking minerals for them, and attracting earthworms that will also contribute their valuable castings to the area.
DON'T HAVE A GARDEN OUR AN OUTDOOR SPACE?
If you don't have a garden, and would like to grow these in your house, just buy one of the 5 lb sawdust spawn bags, open it up upon receipt, and top it with some moist potting soil, about 1 inch deep, close the bag back up with a clothes pin, or some staples, so the moisture is preserved, mist often and then wait. As soon as you see buttons emerging from the soil, mist them to keep moist, so they don’t dry out and shrivel up. One of the easiest mushrooms to grow indoors!
Mushrooms are known as fast-growing organisms, especially quickly popping up after the rain. Given the pace of their growth, which is difficult to capture with a human eye, it‘s incredibly interesting to witness the changes of fungi in these mesmerizing time-lapse gifs.
These timelapses show the surprising power of mushroom buds, as they burst through the soil and elegantly expand their caps. What we see on the surface, though, is only a part of organism, called mushroom fruit. The fruit is a short-lived reproductive structure, consisting 92% of water (hence the speed of growth). Read more on http://www.boredpanda.com/mushroom-growth-timelapse-gifs/
Anyone acquainted with J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings knows that Hobbits are especially fond of mushrooms. In the book The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo had a run-in with Farmer Maggot after trespassing on his mushroom-abundant land as a child. Chased away by his hounds all the way to Bucklebury Ferry, Frodo quivers at the thought of stepping foot on old Maggot's land again. Long since over his grudge, Farmer Maggot gifts the hobbits with an ample supply of his famous mushrooms for their journey ahead.
Those who have experienced the mushroom madness has probably ventured forth beyond the pale of borders and fences to hunt the meaty mushrooms, which always seems to entail some kind of adventure or occasionally, misadventure. Read more...
Wild and Cultured: Musings from the GreenMan
Disclaimer: this article is meant to provoke insight into the many uses and mysteries of the mushrooms that live among us. It is not an invitation to experiment into the potentially lethal ingestion of some of the mushrooms mentioned. Consult with a experienced guide, and not merely a book or website when attempting to identify species for consumption.
Meaty, medicinal, mystical…maddening mushrooms. The allure of the mushroom in our Southern Vancouver Island rain forest climes captivates our deepest animal impulses. When on the hunt, the crazed ‘mushroom eyes’ kick in—the body becomes enveloped by an extra-sensory perception of sorts. Perhaps it is an invisible whiff of a cloud of spores on the air that alerts us to our moss-concealed cousins of the Fungi Kingdom. Whatever one may call it, this ‘mushroom craze’ may be felt as a benign form of madness. Read more http://www.sookenewsmirror.com/lifestyles/283089211.html
Here's a powerful provocation from artist Jae Rhim Lee. Can we commit our bodies to a cleaner, greener Earth, even after death? Naturally — using a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms. Yes, this just might be the strangest TEDTalk you'll ever see ...Read more http://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee?language=en#t-196999
Published on Nov 3, 2014
In this 6th Age of Extinctions, the biosphere’s life-support systems that have allowed humans to ascend are collapsing. Visionary mycological researcher/inventor Paul Stamets illuminates how fungi, particularly mushrooms, offer uniquely powerful, practical solutions we can implement now to boost the biosphere’s immune system and equip us with benign breakthrough mycotechnologies to accelerate the transition to a restored world.
This speech was given at the 2014 Bioneers Annual Conference.
"Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges.
To experience talks like this, please join us at the Bioneers National Conference each October, and regional Bioneers Resilient Community Network gatherings held nationwide throughout the year.
For more information on Bioneers, please visit http://www.bioneers.org and stay in touch via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Bioneers.org) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/bioneers).
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- Bottle of white wine
- 500ml white vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 twigs thyme
- 5 leaves sage
- 10 blck pepper cornels
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1kg fresh cut porcini
Add the wine, vinegar, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper to a pot and bring to a boil.
Add the sliced mushrooms.
Cook until the mushrooms are tender.
Cool the mixture down.
Sterilize a jar with boiling water.
Scoop as much of the mixture into the jar as it can take, then fill it up with olive oil.
My name is Slava and I am a photographer. Mushrooms are my second passion after photography. I am an avid mushroom hunter. My passion for mushrooms, as well as photography, was inspired by my father.
Just imagine a warm summer morning, around 5:30 am. You are in a beautiful forest. You are surrounded by peace and quiet. And then, the forest wakes up. First the trills of birds, the croaking of frogs, a woodpecker’s knock. I feel pure joy and happiness, as I am lucky enough to see nature as a special, dreamlike world.
Early in the morning, when I am somewhere between dreams and reality, the camera’s viewfinder creates a sense of presence in some incredibly beautiful and mysterious world. These Little Heroes are like aliens from other planets. Even ordinary mushrooms have elegant and delicate shapes. I invite you to an exciting journey with me and my viewfinder to experience a new world of mushrooms.
Read more http://www.boredpanda.com/mushroom-macro-photography-vyacheslav-mishchenko/
Zombies exist, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. They're just not the kind with guts hanging out and a ravenous taste for brains - well, human brains that is. Instead, they come in ant-form.
Back in 2011, we wrote about this phenomenon. Basically, a fungus releases chemicals into an ants' brain and controls its mind. It forces the ant to leave its duties, go to the underside of a leaf or branch, and clamp down to await its death by fungus. Then a few days later, the fungus releases spores from a stalk that extends from the dead ants' brain to find a new victim.
Knowledge of this fungus has been around since the 1800s. Over the years, scientists have learned that there are many species of fungi that can 'zombify' ants. Their latest finding is that the fungi are picky eaters - they don't just invade the brain of any old ant, it has to be the right one.
Charissa de Bekker, from Pennsylvania State University, and a team of scientists injected fungus into four ant species - two that had been known to be infected by the fungus and two that had not. The fungus killed 3 of the 4 species. It was also able to identify different species based on their brain and change the composition of its chemical release.
Read more http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/zombie-making-ant-fungus-picky-eater.html
We need fungal solutions to pollution, pandemics, and starvation, says Tradd Cotter, a microbiologist and professional mycologist.
I have been studying mushrooms, inside and out, macroscopically and microscopically, for the past 22 years. At times I imagine myself deep into their chemical consciousness to figure out what they are thinking and what they are experiencing. Why? To gain a higher understanding of their individual needs on a species by species basis. I know this sounds strange, and, trust me, on occasion I look in the mirror for signs of gills emerging from my neck or a Cordyceps mushroom sprouting from the back of my head like a possessed ant, as I near the final stages of my personalized mushroom infection.
Now, you don’t need to go to these extremes to be a good mushroom grower. But, who wants to be good? Greatness is committing one step higher and at a level that can make the impossible a reality. That’s what I attempt to teach folks in my new book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation.
Fungi, with their branching fungal filaments called hyphae (collectively called mycelium), are constantly sampling their environment’s chemical properties, using specialized cell tips that can read the composition of a substance like a laboratory liquid chromatographer. These rapid tests signals the mycelium to adjust its internal assembly lines, shifting genetic expression, to manufacture whatever it needs to overcome, or succeed in this newly sampled environment, or in many instances, when it encounters a competitor or pathogen competing with its territory. This interface environment is where the magic happens, and this is where I try to place myself—deep into the matrix to gain a better understanding of these interactions between fungi and their immediate environments.
Read more http://boingboing.net/2014/09/16/how-i-learned-to-think-like-a.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+boingboing%2FiBag+%28Boing+Boing%29
One of the biggest problems facing the earth, plastic pollution, could soon meet its match if students at Yale University are able to breed a recently discovered plastic-eating fungus on a large scale.
Plastic pollution, exemplified by the giant floating island of trash the size of Texas in the Pacific ocean, is highly detrimental to the world’s ecosystem because it breaks down extremely slow. In fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, plastic doesn’t actually biodegrade:
“Plastics do not biodegrade, although, under the influence of solar UV radiations, plastics do degrade and fragment into small particles, termed microplastics.”
This presents humans with a challenge that must soon be met, considering much of our plastic trash ends up in the ocean where it breaks down into toxic microplastics, winding up in sea life. Not only is this dangerous to the sea life, but it’s also dangerous to people because we end up consuming these very fish which we are poisoning with our trash.
Many groups and organizations have been formed to clean up plastic that ends up washing ashore on our beaches, but the vast majority of plastic pollution ends up in the ocean. The planet has a growing addiction to cheap and industrious plastic, increasing in use exponentially every year with no end in sight.
This is why the discovery of plastic-eating fungus is so exciting. According to Inhabitat,
On an expedition to the rainforest of Ecuador, students from Yale’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry discovered a previously unknown fungus that has a healthy appetite for polyurethane. According to Fast Company, the fungus is the first one that is known to survive on polyurethane alone, and it can do so in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, which suggests that it could be used at the bottom of landfills.
The discovery was published in the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Researchers were also able to isolate the enzyme responsible for decomposing the plastic.
It isn’t exactly clear how this fungus will be implemented in bioremediation, but one can picture floating plastic islands covered in mushrooms which will eat the entire trash pile then sink into the ocean.
It’s also important to wean ourselves away from petroleum based plastics because they require many resources just to manufacture, and pollution doesn’t start or end with the trash in the gutter. Many other sustainable options are available which could used instead, like hemp based or other plant based plastics.
Read more at http://expandedconsciousness.com/2014/09/02/fungus-discovered-in-rainforest-capable-of-eating-plastic-pollution/#lHHBBVqCrWvftbAG.99
You GREW a House?! (Yes… and so can you!)
We didn’t just build a tiny house, we grew it. That’s right, the Mushroom® Insulation in the walls were literally alive and grew in place. This is a radical test of Ecovative’s Mushroom® Insulation.
Ecovative uses mycelium (mushroom “roots”) to bond together agricultural byproducts like corn stalks into a material that can replace plastic foam. We’ve been selling it for a few years as protective packaging, helping big companies replace thousands of Styrofoam (EPS), and other plastic foam packaging parts. We’re now working to develop new products for building materials. This project is an exciting, radical and innovative approach to try a bunch of ideas, learn a lot, and grow something really awesome.
Here’s how it works. Mushroom Insulation grows into wood forms over the course of a few days, forming an airtight seal. It dries over the next month (kind of like how concrete cures) and you are left with an airtight wall that is extremely strong. Best yet, it saves on material costs, as you don’t need any studs in the wall, and it gives you great thermal performance since it’s one continuous insulated wall assembly. The finished Mushroom® Insulation is also fire resistant and very environmentally friendly.
"Tried growing mushrooms before, and it didn't work" – if I had money for every time someone has said that to me I'd be a very rich man...and probably no longer a mushroom farmer! Mushrooms are notoriously unreliable to grow, partly due to the mass-produced low quality kits that people often try. Almost mystical organisms, they seem to pop up in the wild in an unpredictable way, often only appearing for just 5 or 6 days before vanishing back into the ground again, not to be seen in the same spot for another year or three. Yet, despite a poor reputation amongst home growers, by using a particularly simple technique and getting a bit of insight into how mushrooms grow, it is possible to successfully grow your own gourmet mushrooms at home. So how exactly are mushrooms cultivated? How can you have success at home? And more to that point - what's all this got to do with waste coffee grounds?
Summer is all about fun get togethers with friends and family. I don’t know about you but when I have company over for a casual gathering I want to keep things as simple as possible. I don’t want to make fancy food or have to run in and out of the kitchen. My preference is for finger food that is eye catching and has a lot of flavor in each bite. In my opinion, there is no better party appetizer than crostini.
This mushroom duxelle crostini is impressive and flavorful but so easy. If you want to make it in advance of a gathering, all you need to do is prepare the components separately and then build the crostini at the last second. Toast the baguette, chop the parsley, shave the gruyere and have them neatly lined up and ready to go. The mushroom duxelle mixture can be prepared up to three days in advance. There truly is no better party appetizer. Enjoy!
Mushroom Duxelle Crostini
Yield: 20-30 crostini
1 French baguette, sliced on the bias
extra virgin olive oil
3 large portabella mushrooms (or 10 ounces mushroom of your choice), chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup shallots (approximately 3 medium shallots), chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons port wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
gruyere cheese, shaved
fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush the baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toast the baguette until slightly golden and crunchy, 7-10 minutes. Set aside.
Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet over low heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and salt. Allow the mushrooms to sweat, stirring frequently, until their liquid has released. As the liquid fills the pan, slowly turn the heat up to medium and continue stirring until it has mostly evaporated, approximately 5 minutes. Move the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
Turn the heat back to medium low. In the same skillet, add an additional 1/2 tablespoon olive oil along with the shallots and garlic. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is fragrant. Add the mushrooms back to the skillet along with the port wine and lemon juice. Sauté the mixture for another 5 minutes, or until there’s very little liquid left in the pan.
Top each crostini with shaved gruyere and a dollop of the mushroom mixture. Top with fresh parsley and serve.