Not quite plants, not quite animals. If there were an award for the most fascinating living thing on the planet, mushrooms would take home the prize. Not only are they incredible for human health – some mushrooms pop up overnight, glow in the dark and turn ants into brainwashed zombies. Creepy and admirable in equal measure – you won’t believe these 23 mind-boggling facts about mushrooms…
1. Mushrooms are neither plant nor animal – they belong to a kingdom of their own. And what’s most astounding is that mushrooms are more closely related to humans than they are to plants! Yep - it’s believed that humans and mushrooms share a common ancestor.
2. Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. In Chinese culture, they brew mushrooms in tea, take them as capsules or grind them into a powder. They have long believed that mushrooms are vital to achieve good health, wellbeing and longevity.
3. It’s not the blue whale… Mushrooms are in fact the largest living thing on earth! Yep – there’s a type of honey fungus (Armillaria solidipes) that sprawls for 3.8km across the Blue Mountains in Oregon. And if that doesn’t make your spine tingle, then consider the fact that this mushroom is mostly underground (and responsible for killing off trees in the area - yikes).
4. Lion’s Mane mushroom is a natural nootropic. This means that it can naturally improve cognitive function, boost memory, enhance creativity heighten your mood (sign us up!) Check out our article on Lion’s Mane to discover more.
5. Mushrooms are decomposers. In other words, they keep nutrients flowing through the entire food web. They turn organic matter (such as decaying plants) into nutrient-rich soil. In fact, they help our planet to achieve ecological balance… None of us would be here without fungi!
6. Many people believe that Amanita Muscaria (the red and white fairytale mushroom) is what created the story of Santa Claus. These hallucinogenic (and poisonous) mushrooms were once used in religious ceremonies amongst Siberian Shaman. Oh, and there are some uncanny similarities to the traditions we have today. We wrote a blog post on Amanita Muscaria: The Fascinating History Of The Fairy Tale Fungus.
8. Mushroom mycelium can be used to make biodegradable clothing. Mushroom fabric is durable, versatile and antimicrobial. And the best part? You can throw your clothes in the compost once you’re done!
9. Mycophobia is the fear of mushrooms. People who suffer from mycophobia will fear eating them or even touching them.
10. Some mushrooms glow in the dark. Yep – there are around 70 species of ghostly, bioluminescent fungi. It’s believed they glow in the dark as a way to attract insects to spread their spores. Smart, really…
11. Mushrooms can be used as a natural pesticide. It’s no secret that we need a better solution to using harsh chemicals on our plants and gardens. Turns out, mushrooms could hold the answer. Mushroom biopesticides use a parasitic fungi that infects insects and then eats away at their tissue until they die (your veggie patch could quite seriously become the next horror film… If you’re into that).
12. Mushrooms are incredibly low in calories (but super high in nutrition). They also have virtually no fat. And the best part? They’re jam-packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
13. Chaga is believed to be one of the world’s greatest sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to fight off free radicals in the body and lower oxidative stress. This can work to prevent harmful diseases and promote overall wellbeing.
14. Cordyceps is used to increase your strength and stamina. Popular amongst athletes, Cordyceps is also believed to increase oxygen intake, ATP, VO2 max and kidney function. And the best part – it could even boost your performance in the bedroom (thank us later).
15. The Laetiporus mushroom tastes exactly like chicken. This mushroom spurts out of trees around the world, and they’ve even been dubbed the “Chicken of the Woods.”
16. Agaricus bisporus is the most common type of mushroom in Australia. Also known as white mushrooms, portobello mushrooms and button mushrooms (yep – they’re all the same mushroom, just at different stages of its life cycle!)
17. Reishi is known as the “Mushroom of Immortality.” And for good reason – it’s been popular in China for thousands of years, and is believed to boost immunity, boost energy, promote relaxation and detoxify the body.
18. Mushroom mycelium can be used as a sustainable building material. Mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus (similar to the roots of a flower). And this vast web of fibrous hyphae can be transformed into a low-cost, biodegradable and sustainable building material. Can you imagine building our way to a brighter future?
19. Psylopsybin (aka magic mushrooms) can cause lasting changes in your brain. While there’s still a lot more research to be done in this area – new studies suggest that the active component in Psylopsybin can change the communication patterns in the brain. Another study revealed that brain function was altered one month after the subjects took a high dose of Psylopsybin (ahem – don’t try this one at home!)
20. Mushrooms can help save the bees. The mycelium from Reishi and Amadou mushrooms could give the bees a good old boost of immunity, which can protect them from the Deformed Wing Virus and the Lake Sinai Virus (we wrote a post on it here).
21. The Cordyceps mushroom can infect ants and turn them into zombies! Once infected with Cordyceps spores, ants become brainwashed and disorientated. The fungus then compels the ant to leave the safety of the nest and ascend to a nearby stem (the perfect place to grow a fungus). The fruiting body from the Cordyceps mushroom then bursts out of the ant’s head (nature, eh?)
22. Mushrooms can create their own wind! It was previously believed that mushrooms would wait for the surrounding wind or insects to disperse their spores. But new research suggests that they don’t sit around and wait for that to happen – they make it happen themselves! Yep – they create a small, localised air stream by releasing water vapour. The cooling of the vapour then causes cells to move around the area (aka, wind).
23. Fungi can survive in outer space. You know how the fungus in your bathroom is virtually impossible to kill? Well, turns out, not even a trip to outer space will do the trick. Fungus brought to outer space by humans can survive incredibly high doses of radiation... So yes, fungus could quite literally be from outer space.
If these 23 mushroom facts knocked your socks off, then perhaps you’re ready to incorporate mushrooms into your diet (ok – but not the space growing, psychoactive or glow in the dark kind!)
At Natura Mushrooms we grow a range of organic, homegrown and sustainably harvested medicinal mushrooms. Try our Lion’s Mane mushroom to boost cognition, Cordyceps to boost energy and endurance or Reishi to enhance your immune system. Are you ready to unleash the power of mushrooms?