Fungi are a huge group of 50,000 species. They include mushrooms, toadstools, mould, mildew and yeast.
Fungi are not plants, because they have no chlorophyll to make their food. So scientists put them in a group or kingdom of their own.
Because fungi cannot make their own food, they must live off other plants and animals – sometimes as partners, sometimes as parasites.
Parasitic fungi feed off living organisms; fungi that live off dead plants and animals are called saprophytic.
Fungi feed by releasing chemicals called enzymes to break down chemicals in their host. The fungi then use the chemicals as food. The chanterelle is a sweet-smelling, edible amber-colored mushroom. But it looks very like the poisonous jack o’lantern
Cheeses like Camembert, Rocquefort, Stilton and Danish Blue get their distinctive flavors from chemicals made by molds added to them to help them ripen. The blue streaks in some cheeses are actually molds
Fungi are made of countless cotton-like threads called hyphae which absorb the chemicals they feed on. Hyphae are usually spread out in a tangled mass. But they can bundle together to form fruiting bodies like mushrooms.
Some fungi grow by spreading their hyphae in a mat or mycelium; others scatter their spores. Those that grow from spores go through the same two stages as mosses.
!ruffles are fungi that grow near oak and hazel roots.
Many mould fungi are the source of lifesaving antibiotic drugs such as penicillin.
Some poisonous fungi are very small microfungi which often form molds or mildew. Many are either ‘sac’ fungi (Ascomycetes) or ‘imperfect’ fungi (Deuteromycetes).
Ergot is a disease of cereals, especially rye, caused by the sac fungus Claviceps purpurea. If humans eat ergot-infected rye, they may suffer an illness called St Anthony’s Fire. Ergot is also the source of the drug LSD.
Aspergillus is an imperfect fungus that may cause liver damage or even cancer in humans.
False morel is a poisonous sac fungus as big as a mushroom. True morels are harmless.
About 75 kinds of mushroom are toxic to humans and so called toadstools. Most belong to the Amanita family, including destroying angels, death caps and fly agarics.
Death caps contain deadly phalline toxins that kill most people who eat the fungus.
Fly agaric was once used as a poison for flies.
Fly agaric and the Psilocybe mexicana mushroom were eaten by by fungi `mycotoxins’.
Fly agaric contains a poison called Latin American Indians because muscarine. It rarely kills but makes you feel hey gave hallucinations. sick and agitated.
Athlete’s foot is a nasty foot condition caused by a fungus.