This time of the
year in the Sea to Sky corridor, with autumn rains fast approaching, results in
the growth of lots of mushrooms in the area’s forests. People often think of
mushrooms as a member of the Plant kingdom, but they belong to a separate
kingdom of organisms called Fungi. The fungal kingdom has been estimated to
contain about 1.5 million species.
are all examples of
Our area boasts
approximately 450 species from the Fungi kingdom. The fleshy, fruiting bodies
of our local mushrooms are used by residents for edible and medicinal purposes,
but these fungi also play a vital role in the health of our local ecosystems.
of fungi provide different functions in the forest, all as a result of the fact
that fungi lack chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment that many plants
use to absorb energy from sunlight in order to make food.
Grade 9 science terminology,
is a symbiotic term that describes a close and often
long-term relationship between individuals of different
where both derive
benefit. Fungi have a mutualistic relationship with the roots of host plants,
ranging from trees to grasses in our ecosystems. Fungi enhance the plants’
nutrients from the soil while tapping the trees’ store of photosynthetically
generated simple sugars and vitamins.
means mushroom, while
means roots. The collection of filament
cells that grow into the mushroom body is called the
. The mycelium of mycorrhizal mushrooms
can either cover the exterior or enter the interior roots cells of the host
The mycelium also
grow beyond the immediate root zone of the host plant as long, complex chains
of cells that fork repeatedly in matrix-like fashion, spreading over acres to
geographically defined borders. The mycelium can grow over half a kilometre a
day, increasing the plant's absorption of nutrients, nitrogenous compounds, and
essential elements (e.g. copper, zinc, phosphorus). To do this the mycelium
secretes enzymes that break down organic complexes and then absorbs the
newly-freed nutrients through their cell walls. These enzymes and the ability
of the mycelium to selectively absorb materials, results in plants better
protected against bacteria and other contaminants in the soil.