Compiled by Keith Hunt
The following is taken from "ABC's of Nature - a family answer
book" by Reader's Digest 1984.
All capital words are mine throughout for emphasis.
OF MOLDS AND MUSHROOMS
What are fungi?
Like algae, fungi are simple non-flowering plants that lack
true leaves, stems, and roots. But unlike algae, they contain no
chlorophyll and so are unable to manufacture their own food.
Mushrooms are the best known of more than 75,000 species of
plants classed as fungi. The one-celled yeasts that cause bread
to rise and juices to ferment are also fungi, as is the mildew
that may form on a pair of shoes, in a damp closet. Still other
types of fungi cause the various rust and smut diseases that
afflict plants, and the ringworm and athlete's foot infections of
The mold that appears on decaying fruit and the fuzz mold
that sometimes forms on bread are fungi, too......
HOW DO MUSHROOMS AND OTHER
If you squeeze a ripe puffball, a cloud of dark 'dust'
spurts out. And if you tap a mushroom cap over a piece of white
paper, the paper is peppered with similar specks. These are
SPORES, the reproductive units of fungi. Occurring in a variety
of shapes and colors, they all have the ability to develop into
Fungi generally reproduce huge numbers of spores. A single
mushroom may release BILLIONS of them. Some spores are shot from
the parent plant. Others are scattered by falling raindrops. But
MOST are spread by the WIND. Tiny and lightweight, they can ride
through the air for thousands of miles. So many eventually land
and germinate that fungi are among the most widespread of all
CAN MUSHROOMS GROW UP OVERNIGHT?
A mushroom is only the fruiting, or reproductive, structure
of a much larger fungus body that grows out of sight in rotting
logs, rich humus, and similar dark, damp places. The hidden part
of the plant consists of a multitude of minute, threadlike
filaments, called hyphae, that form a tangled mass known as the
In many of the familiar mushrooms, the fruiting bodies are
fleshly and umbrella- shaped. Warm, damp weather triggers their
sudden appearance. First, to show up is a small round 'button'
composed of densely packed hyphae. Soon the outer covering
ruptures, the stem elongates and the cap enlarges to its full
size. The entire process can indeed happen overnight.
ARE ALL FUNGI SHAPED LIKE MUSHROOMS?
The fruiting bodies of fungi come in a seemingly endless
array of forms and colors.....many other fungi do NOT resemble
mushrooms at all......One kind of fungus looks like a head of
cauliflower, and others resemble upright branching clumps of
coral. Still others protrude like shelves from three trunks, and
other kinds look like glistening blobs of jelly......
WHAT DO FUNGI FEED ON?
Unable to produce their own food, all fungi take their
nourishment from the bodies of other plants and animals, both
living and dead. Thousands of plant diseases are caused by
parasitic fungi that attack living plants. One kind of fungus is
even PREDATORY. It snares microscopic nematode worms in nooselike
growths on its hyphae, then absorbs their substance.
Other kinds of fungi live in close association with the
roots of pines, orchids, and other types of plants......In this
case the relationship is mutually beneficial, not parasitic;
the fungi supply the roots with water and nutrients and in return
receive essential food.
But the MAJORITY of fungi live on the REMAINS of plants and
animals. their hyphae permeate the DEAD tissue, hastening its
breakdown and decay. Fungi, in fact are invaluable for their role
in decomposing organic matter.
ARE TOADSTOOLS A TYPE OF MUSHROOM?
In common usage, mushroomlike fungi that are poisonous or
inedible are often called toadstools. The word originated in
times gone by, when toads were considered vile, poisonous
creatures, and the fungi found with them in damp, dark places
were presumed to be poisonous too. But while the word is
certainly picturesque, it is not used by scientists who study
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A MUSHROOM
......Some of the TOXIC kinds cause only mild discomfort;
others are LETHAL. Some kinds may be poisonous to one person and
not to others, or they may have ill effect only if eaten in large
quantities. And some are HALLUCINOGENS, causing severe
distortions of perception.
Unfortunately, there is NO EASY WAY to tell if a mushroom is
POISONOUS. Some of the edible kinds are quite easily recognized,
BUT OTHERS have LETHAL LOOK-ALIKES that can only be distinguished
by EXPERTS with MANY YEARS of experience......
WHERE DO TRUFFLES COME FROM?
.......Found mainly in western Europe, they grow in open
woodlands near the roots of trees. The fruiting bodies, ranging
from white to greyish brown to nearly black, are fragrant, fleshy
structures, usually about the size of golf balls.
Truffles are difficult to find because, unlike typical
mushrooms, they develop UNDERGROUND. Truffle hunters use
specially trained dogs and pigs to find the flavourful
morsels.....Pigs, in fact, can scent a truffle 20 feet away.....
WHAT ARE SLIME MOLDS?
.....500 or so species of fungi known as SLIME MOLDS; for
much of their lives they act more like animals than plants. In
their active phase, slim molds are jellylike blobs,
sometimes brightly colored and often several inches in diameter,
that flourish among decaying vegetation. Creeping along like
giant amoebas, they ingest microorganisms and bits of rotting
Eventually, however, the slime molds make their way to
higher, drier places, and the masses of protoplasm are gradually
transformed into fruiting bodies. These stalked, often ornately
formed structures then release myriads of SPORES that germinate
and start the cycle anew.
LICHENS: TWO PLANTS IN ONE
What are lichens
......For, whatever their shapes and sizes, each and every
type of lichen is actually composed of TWO separate plants - a
FUNGUS and an ALGAE - living in close association. The BULK of
the lichen is made up of a meshwork of minute, threadlike FUNGAL
filaments; embedded within this network are multitudes of
microscopic one-celled ALGAE.
Both members benefit from this partnership. The fungus
absorbs the moisture that the algae need, and may supply them
with essential minerals. It supplies the algae with a living
place; anchored to the surface by rootlike structures, the fungus
also furnishes stability. The algae are the food-producing
members of the partnership, and supply the fungus with
carbohydrates. Lichens, in fact, ate notable examples of
mutualism - a case of two different organisms living together to
the advantage of both.
HOW DO LICHENS SPREAD?
.....The chanciest method is by producing SPORES. The fungi
in lichens form reproductive organs, often brilliantly colored,
that release countless microscopic spores. If the spores alight
in the right sort of habitat, they develop into tiny fungus
plants. And if, as they grow, they happen to come into contact
with exactly the right species of algae, the two develop into a
lichen. But often than not, the fungus fails to find the right
partner and dies.
Other methods leave less to chance. Lichens become brittle
when they dry out, and fragments tend to break off and blow away.
If the pieces land in moist places, they revive, take hold, and
continue to grow. Lichens also produce little clumps of fungal
threads and algal cells on their upper surface. Broken off and
carried away by wind or water, these tiny structures develop into
WHERE DO LICHENS LIVE?
Lichens flourish in all sorts of habitats, from dripping
rain forests to searing deserts. Some have been found high above
the timberline in the Himalayas, others within 250 of the South
Pole. Lichens grow on rocks, trees, and bare soil as well as on
gravestones, buildings, and even sunbleached bones and the backs
of certain weevils.
Lichens, in fact, frequently thrive where no other plants
can survive.....By colonizing such inhospitable habitats as bare
rock, they play a part in preparing the way for other plants.
They help break down the rock and so create pockets of soil,
which furnish a suitable environment where spores and seeds of
other plants can gain a foothold.
HOW DO LICHENS SURVIVE?
The lichens that live in Antarctica regularly endure
temperatures that fall far below 0 degrees F. Desert species live
on rocks that sometimes become literally too hot to touch. In one
experiment, some lichens were baked for SEVEN hours at a
temperature of 434 degrees F - more than twice the temperature of
boiling water. and they SURVIVED. (Yeast fungi used sometimes to
raise bread, cannot live in heat of 140 degrees F or above -
One secret of lichens' success however, is that they
normally avoid such extremes by drying out and becoming DORMANT.
When favorable conditions return, they soak up moisture and begin
to grow actively again.
Yet even the hardy lichen cannot survive everywhere. Despite
their adaptability, MOST species are extremely sensitive to air
pollution. As a result, large cities and industrial areas are
among the few places where lichens are generally not found. But
there are exceptions even to this rule; in Great Britain one kind
of lichen is actually increasing in abundance in areas of severe
ARE ALL LICHENS ALIKE?
Scientists recognize some 15,000 species of lichens, each
consisting of one particular kind of fungus combined with a
specific algal partner.This bewildering array is usually divided
into three groups, each determined by the way the plants grow.
One group, the crustose lichens, includes all the species
that grow as thin, flat crusts on rocks and other
surfaces.....The foliose lichen look more or less like leaves
that have been carelessly pasted down and are loose at the
edges.....The third group is called fruticose lichens, from the
Latin word "shrub." Some of these, such as reindeer moss,
grow on the ground in upright branching tufts. Others, such as
the beard lichen, hand like tassels from the limbs of trees. Some
of the hanging types are nine feet long.
HOW LONG DO LICHENS LIVE?
The longevity of lichens varies, depending on the species
and many other facts. In temperate regions, a full-grown lichen
is likely to be as much as 50 years old. But specimens of some
rock-encrusting types in the Arctic may be up to 4,500 years old.
Long life spans and slow growth rates often go together, and
this is certainly true of lichens. The fastest growing types
expand by less than half an inch per year, and the crustlike
types grow even slower. Some of the Arctic species need hundreds
of years to grow a single inch.....
ARE LICHENS USEFUL?
Lichens, like every living thing, have a role in the general
scheme of nature. They not only help form soil from solid rock
but also serve as food for animals from reindeer to snails and
Man, too, has found many special uses for
lichens....traditional lichens product is DYE, including
scarlets, purples, blues, browns, and yellows. Scottish craftsmen
still use lichen dyes to color their famous Harris tweeds.
Lichens are also the source of litmus, the dye used in chemical
tests for acidity.
Although most lichens are INEDIBLE, the leaflike species
called Iceland moss yields a starchy food that poor people used
All very interesting and informative on some of the
vegetation of this world. All are part of the whole, all have a
part to play in the whole scheme of nature as was said above.
But as like the animal kingdom, the bird kingdom, the insect
kingdom, and the world of that which is in the waters, only PARTS
of the vegetation world was created by God for human consumption
as food to nourish and build the cells of the human body. The
vegetation law that we discussed in earlier studies underlines
that we as human beings should NOT use algae, molds, fungi,
lichens, for and as a food supply in our regular diet.
God has given us more than enough green seedbearing
vegetation to amply supply our bodies with nutrition for cell
reproduction in a healthy manner.
But mankind seems to want to eat just about anything that
will not kill him on the spot. At the same time TV news and
documentary shows CRY OUT to us that we are LESS healthy and more
obese (the stats for the USA on obesity in children run this way:
1980 5% of children obese, 2003 it is 15.5% - three times
as many, then they show you what children are eating on a regular
basis, and you understand why they are three times more obese
than in 1980) than ever before.
If you have not done so already, it really is time to do a
stock taking inventory of what YOU, and/or your family is
consuming as food. Our physical bodies are the Temple of God, we
should care about how we look after that Temple.
TO BE CONTINUED
Compiled and written July 2003