I heard that there is an underground fungus that covers a whole acre. But what does it look like? There was a carnivorous one in an X-Files episode, but that’s another story. Are there huge funguses, and are there any pictures of them?
There is a fungus in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that covers more than 30 acres. It mostly consisits of underground runners and threads and sprouts mushrooms above ground. I don’t know offhand of any pictures, but it’s underground, so that would make it hard to photograph.
The first one was found in the western region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Subsequently, large ones have been found elsewhere. (The largest is in Washington(?), so far.)
Basically they look like mushrooms. Beneath the soil surface, they have extended runners (filaments) that connect all the shoots together. The Michigan Armillaria bulbosa was estimated at over 15 hectares (38 acres) and 10,000 kilograms. It was identified by taking genetic samplings over a wide area and identifying the limits of identical genetic material.
The Washington Armillaria ostoyae covers over 1,500 acres (2.5 square miles) and appears to be between 400 and 1,000 years old.
OK, have you ever seen a faerie ring? That’s a circle a couple of meters or so in diameter in your yard, with mushrooms sprouting up around the edge. The key thing to realize is that the mushrooms are not individual organisms, rather, the whole faerie ring is one single organism, mostly underground. It’s basically no different with the big ones; they’ve just got some friggin’ big faeries in Michigan and Washington.
[obligatory Shakespeare quote]
…ye demi-puppets that
by moonshine do the green-sour ringlets make
whereof the ewe bites not, and ye whose pastime
is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
to hear the solemn curfew…
Wasn’t there a stand of Aspen trees in Colorado or Wyoming that was considered the world’s largest organism?
They were all genetically the same and had one root system, or some such connection; my recollection of the facts is hazy (I remember reading something about it in Scientific American a few years ago).
I keep wishing for a photograph of the underground fungus, but it is all just little filaments. Not much to look at even if there could be some kind of x-ray so to speak of the ground… Evidently the roots are so inferior to real roots that they don’t even call them roots. Still, someone must have made a drawing or “artist’s conception.”
In the X-Files episode the fungus underground was basically in a cave so you could see at least slime dripping off the walls from it, as I remember, and vague shapes. It was the only X-Files I actually watched, since the others are too gruesome for me. At least in this one you went unconscious because of the drug the mushroom gave you and you didn’t feel a thing.