Tuesday, August 02, 2011

World's largest fungus fruiting body discovered

Mycologists in China have discovered what may be the world's largest fungal fruiting body. It is a kind of bracket fungus, of the species Fomitiporia ellipsoidea, and forms a structure of about 10 meters in the longest dimension, and weighs up to half a metric ton. (Photos at BBC News website)

Bracket fungi thrive on dead wood, forming shelves or 'brackets' projecting perpendicular from the wood surface, instead of standing on stalks like classic mushrooms. They also have pores rather than gills, as openings for the dispersal of spores.

The size of this fruiting body is however dwarfed by the immensity of the world's (potentially) largest organism, also a fungus, called Armillaria ostoyae, whose underground mycelium covers an area of 965 hectares! Fruiting bodies like brackets and mushrooms are only the visible part that has emerged from the ramifying network of nutrient-gathering hyphae in order to accomplish sexual reproduction and spore dispersal. In the case of this newly discovered individual of Fomitiporia, scientists attribute its large size to the perennial nature of its growth, and the long time that it has been allowed to grow undisturbed.


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