Mushrooms, mold, and society

Long ago, a potato famine caused misery for the Irish. A fungus had proliferated throughout the country, infecting an important food. Many Irish people migrated to the United States for more hope in farming success and better living situations.

A few years ago, the frog populations began to decline rapidly. The frogs would seem to be paralyzed, floating on the water. A graduate student awaits the opportunity to get funding for his research on the impact of fungus on amphibians. The Batrachochytrium dendrobatitis fungus grows on the skin of frogs, disallowing the ability to breathe. The graduate student’s grant for research is finally approved.

Before terrestrial plants existed, Mycorrhizae began to grow on the roots of aquatic plants. This symbiotic relationship allows the plants to gain more access to nutrients as the fungus can extend through the soil to absorb as much as possible. Mycorrhizae can also grow inside the plants stem walls, helping the plant to efficiently utilize nutrients. In return, the fungi receive sugars. This relationship allowed aquatic plants to spread out and move towards dry land. The fungus assisted plants new to the terrestrial environment with absorbing nutrients from dry soil.

Fungi are classified as sexually and asexually reproducing organisms with intricate growing systems. As I learn this interesting material, I think to myself these are such a small, even microscopic species that can impact our society in vast ways. This species still holds mysteries as much of its mechanical ways of utilizing nutrients and growing its hyphal tips to expand throughout the surface lacks support of research.

After learning such interesting material in a class with only eight people learning about mushrooms, mold, and society, one student expresses that fungi are “so weird”. My professor replies, “It’s not that they’re weird, we just haven’t taken the time to understand and appreciate their attributes”. My professor was right. Anything different from the building mechanisms of the human existence is uncanny to people. But it’s only a matter of exploring the odd or “weird” aspects of nature, which leads to gaining greater respect for the diversity of life.




  1. joshyboy21 · February 16, 2016

    Hi I have always been very interested in mushrooms and have even tried to grow them myself. One of my favorite things today back at home is to explore the woods after a lot of rain has fallen for a week, and I mean a lot of rain generally in the fall or spring. Then I go explore all the interesting fruiting bodies that have popped up throughout the woodlands.

    What class is it that you are taking?

    Joshua Simon


  2. xiaoxiazzzzz · February 19, 2016

    I really enjoy your post a lot! It sounds like a story to me, so it is easier to understand; and I know this happens in real life. I did not know there is a fungus, lives on the skin of frog, which leads to death of frogs. Mycorrhizae grow with plants, and they are symbiosis. These two things live upon each other. I like the way to reflect things back on yourself. And yes, we, as human, are small part of world. There are so many things we don’t actually know about out world that we need to figure them out, even fugue has its own intelligence. There are so many things we can learn from them and apply them to our life.


  3. andrewwingfield · February 23, 2016

    Sonam, I enjoyed reading your post on fungi. Have you ever heard of mycologist Paul Stametz? He has a very interesting TED talk about the various ways in which fungi can help clean and restore damaged ecosystems. They are very good at removing toxic substances from soil, among other things. Check it out:

    If you enjoy Stametz’s talk, you might also like his book, Mycelium Running.


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