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Natural Perspective

The Fungus Kingdom: Who Likes Fungi?

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)

Life on this planet is an intricate tapestry of interaction. Individual species depend upon one another for sustenance, often forming surprising alliances to achieve a common goal: continuance of the species.

[icon madrone] The Fungus Kingdom is no exception to this rule. Many species in the Plant Kingdom are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for their sustenance. Some species such as the beautiful Snowplant are so fully dependent on fungi that they have lost the ability to photosynthesize. In fact, all members of the Heath family (Ericaceae) -- including Madrone (right), Manzanita, and Blueberries (aka Huckleberries) -- are dependent on fungi for life.

But these plants do not care about the mushroom directly. Some fungi, on the other hand, do live on the mushrooms of other fungi. Similarly, many members of the Animal Kingdom, live off of mushrooms.

[icon: maggot] [photo: maggots] The Fungus Gnat (such as Mycetophila fungorum) is probably the most prevalent mushroom predator. Adult gnats lay eggs at the base of a mushroom. The larva (or maggots, left and right) then burrow up the growing mushroom to find sustenance and shelter, often reducing perfectly good mushrooms into a pile of mush -- such as the Honey Mushrooms on the right -- much to the chagrin of human mushroom hunters.

[icon: springtail] Miniscule jumpy bugs called Springtails -- such as the highly magnified Culture Louse (Onychiurus folsomi) pictured on the left run a close second for most likely to be found on/in a mushroom. Other insects and Arthropods which find comfort in the mushroom include Moths, Beetles and Sowbugs. Some Ant species even cultivate fungus for food and save the mushrooms for their dignitaries!

[icon: banana-slug] Mollusks also enjoy munching mushrooms. While the banana-slug on the right is more photogenic, other mollusks enjoy mushrooms just as much. We once put several baby Agarici in a planter which happened to be home to a garden slug as well. Every night it would sneak out and nibble off another tasty morsel until nothing was left.

Closer to home, many mammals are fond of mushrooms, too. Bolete hunters know that squirrels and deer will often beat them to these prized mushrooms. The authors have even seen squirrels running up a tree with King Bolete in mouth as if it were an acorn. And Fungus Gnat maggot makes a tasty snack for a rat.

But the mammal who cherishes the mushroom most of all is the human being. Fungophiles can spend hours of joy hunting, preparing, and eating all sorts of edible mushrooms!

[photo dish]
Manzanita Bolete steaks over Rice
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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
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Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
Early PhotoCD scans by Alpha CD Imaging, Menlo Park, CA
Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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