Many know mushrooms to be tasty delicacies, but what they don't know is mushrooms are actually the "fruits" of hidden fungal organisms that live inside soil or wood. Not all mushrooms are edible, though they all grow pretty much the same way.
Fungi produces other organisms besides mushrooms, like molds, mildews, rusts, and yeasts. The type of fungus that produces mushrooms forms a symbiotic relationship with its host (tree, or soil), and as such, helps to maintain the health of its host, and its surrounding ecosystem.
Mushrooms come in all different colors, ranging in shapes to form cups, sponges, balls, cauliflower, marine coral, or even saucers. The shape of the mushroom is determined by what form will permit it to best reproduce within its environment.
Generally, there's a part on a mushroom that has a porous, or fish-gill-like appearance. Inside each of these gills are cells that manufacture the spores, or seeds, of the mushroom. Winds and breezes then detach these spores from the gill walls, and that's how mushroom seeds are disseminated. The mushroom itself just naturally grows into the shape that best enables this dissemination process.
Mushrooms are known for their role as the "recyclers" of an ecosystem in that they feed off of dead organisms while returning vital nutrients back to the soil. Mushrooms are most likely to appear in wet, or moist areas, and it is this moisture factor that makes them sprout up, seemingly out of nowhere.
In soil settings, the fungi that grows the mushrooms live underground. It's a network of microscopic branches that extends throughout, effecting trees, plants and grasses. This fungi is an essential part of any ecosystem. The mushroom plant itself is actually an extension of the tips that make up this underground fungi network, as the tips have a tendency to become dry. After a good rain, the tips soak up excess moisture and thereby grow into the mushrooms we see.
As quickly as a patch of mushrooms appears, so it disappears once the moisture dries off. The short time that the mushroom body appears above ground is time enough for spore structures to detach and replant in a new locale.
Besides being tasty delicacies, mushrooms are also used for medicinal, and recreational purposes as well, while other varieties of mushrooms are poisonous. Folk medicine has made use of the medicinal properties of mushrooms for thousands of years. Reishi, shiitake, chaga, and maitake mushroom breeds have been applied as viral and cancer treatments as well as being used as immune system enhancers.
Magic mushrooms, or Psilocybin, are the ones used for recreational purposes. These are known to produce a psychedelic effect when ingested. Certain Native American tribes use them to promote mystical experiences, or visions, as well as for medicinal, healing purposes.
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