The largest living organism is a humongous fungus
Step (well, swim) aside, blue whales. It’s time for the lesser-known giants of nature to finally get some airtime. And our favourite lesser-known giants are obviously fungi. Read on for some fun facts.
When it comes to size, blue whales are definitely impressive. At up to 25m in length and weighing up to 150 000kg, there’s no denying they make a statement. But if you’re looking for a less obvious large organism, check out the honey fungus.
It positively dwarfs the average blue whale: the largest on record measures 3.8km across! But honey fungus keeps a low profile. Like an iceberg, most of the growth happens underground. And while it sounds super impressive, it can actually be very, very bad for forests and gardens.
There is one slight problem. Honey fungus is quite bad for trees. And it loves to travel. In fact, in the cooler forests in Canada and the United States, honey fungus spreads for kilometres. It’s a parasite and it kills trees, which is a serious bummer. The way it spreads is fascinating, though. Soil scientist Jesse Morrison explains:
When mycelia from different individual honey fungus bodies meet, either in or on the soil surface, they can attempt to fuse to each other. The fungi must be genetically identical honey fungi. When the mycelia successfully fuse to each other, they link very large fungal bodies together. This, in turn, changes extensive networks of fungal ‘clones’ into a single individual.
No big deal. They just clone themselves! Colour us impressed.
Of course, we’re not on Team Honey Fungus for obvious reasons. But this tenacious pest does exemplify all that we love about mushrooms. By creating a massive network and using its incredible shape-shifting powers, honey fungus is incredibly efficient at getting its job done.
There are thousands of other fungi that use similar powers for good, and some very clever people are coming up with environmentally friendly, biodegradable ways to make the best possible use of the incredible power of mushrooms.