What is special about fungi?
Fungi are the original recyclers. By decomposing dead plants and animals, they provide a sustainable environment not just for nature, but for mankind and his crops. Not only that, if it wasn’t for yeast, itself a fungus, we would not have had beer which was of incalculable benefit to early civilizations by sterilising otherwise contaminated water. Nor would we have bread, cakes, biscuits, vegetable cheeses and meat substitutes - all made by the fermenting ability of fungi. Fungi also help in the fight against disease, as the source of some of our most successful antibiotics. They provide food and shelter in the life cycles of many insects and other creatures and, of course, they are used in many of the best restaurants to add flavour to recipes. That fungi are beneficial in so many unseen ways, is too easily overlooked, given their adverse effects in causing some plant and animal diseases and despoiling stored food - a world-wide problem.
One of the largest, heaviest and oldest living things known on earth is a mushroom growing in north west America. It weighs in at 150 metric tonnes, covers 890 hectares and is at least 2,400 years old! Now that’s a monster and the same honey fungus Armillaria ostoyaeis widespread in Scotland!