How Big is a Fungus?

What do we think when we see the word ‘Fungus’ – what does it conjure up ?

When we’re very young, perhaps we were told that Fairies live under Toadstools. Later, in stories they are always portrayed as being poisonous – and this one, often found under Birch Trees, the Fly Agaric actually is.

Whatever we were told when we were introduced to them, I’m sure that most people think of them as upright stalks with a round top – like the one in the picture.

So, if that’s fungus, what is this evil-looking stuff ?

Well, it’s fungus too. In fact this photo of the bootlace-like roots  – or ‘rhizomorphs and mycelium’ as they are called – is actually what the overwhelming majority of what a Fungus consists of.

The Toadstools and Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of the fungus, and they pop up in their right season – often in the autumn – and their job is to spread the fungal spores.

In this case, these ‘roots’ belong to the ‘Bootlace’ Fungus, or ‘Honey Fungus’ – Armilleria mellea – and it’s a killer of trees and shrubs, and these ‘roots’ can be found under the bark of it’s victims. Astonishingly the largest known network of these roots which belong to one fungus is said to cover over 2.5 square miles.

So maybe fungus can be bigger than you thought ?