Mushrooms As you walk through a forest or even your backyard you may take a glance towards the ground and see a mushroom. Have you ever wondered what may be causing it to grow? What it is made of etc.? Different mushrooms are made of different things, and different forms of growth allow their quickness abilities in growth. So what is a mushroom? A mushroom is the fruit of the mushroom plant, like the apple of an apple tree. The body of the mushroom in called mycelium and its individual parts are microscopic. Since the body of the mushroom is usually dispersed over a relatively large area, it is rarely noticed. In nature, some species of mushrooms may have a body that spreads over hundreds of square miles. Mushrooms are fungi, and are usually placed in a kingdom of their own apart from plants and animals. Mushrooms contain no chlorophyll and most are considered saprophytes. They obtain their nutrition from metabolizing non-living organic matter. This means that they decompose off dead things, or alternately speaking eat dead plants. When enough material is stored and the conditions are just right they begin to fruit, or produce mushrooms. Does it seem as though sometimes mushrooms grow overnight? If the body is spread out and microscopic, how do mushrooms grow so quickly? There are two basic reasons: one since they store up compounds between fruiting and most fruit once a year, they have a lot of reserve available to support the mushroom, and two Mushrooms develop differently than plants or animals do. Plants and animals use cell division, which requires a lot of energy and time. While mushrooms do use cell division, they also use cell enlargement to grow. In a mushroom plant, a mushroom has the same number of cells, as it will when it is fully-grown. That is where cell enlargement is use much like your muscle cells in your body which do not replicate, but grow instead. This means that the cells can balloon up very rapidly. Very little energy is required; the cells just enlarge with water. So a mushroom can increase in size as fast as water can be pumped into its cells. Almost over-night a mushroom can go from a pinhead to a large mushroom. Mushrooms need water for their fruit to grow. Mushrooms have no skin so they can lose water to the atmosphere very easily through osmosis. That is why they flourish in very humid conditions. If the humidity is too low the, cells lose water faster than it can be pumped in and the immature mushroom dries up and dies. Although mushrooms do not need all the water that they can get. Just as you and I they need to breathe do, except they do not have lungs. The cells in the mushroom directly exchange gases with the atmosphere. If the body of the mushroom is submerged in water, it is comparable to drowning. No oxygen can be exchanged, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which do not need oxygen to thrive) build up, and the mushroom is choked to death. It is almost the same with the mushroom fruit. If it is too dry they lose too much water and desiccate. However, if it is too wet the humidity is too high the excess water prevents any gas exchange and the developing mushroom chokes off. The next time you look at a mushroom as you approach it's position on the forest floor or elsewhere you'll realize that it's not as simple as it may appear. When really there is a networking system of the fungus to its fruits, which we see and call mushrooms. When in actuality the mushrooms are all of the inner microscopic workings underground and the fruits of the mushroom plant put together which we see above the surface of the forest floor.
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