Note — May 17, 2020

The Secret Lives of Fungi

Seen in → No.126

Source → newyorker.com/magazine/2020/05/18/the-secre...

If you’ve read all the links I’ve posted about fungi over the last couple of years, perhaps this one will be a bit redundant. However, if you haven’t or, like me, are fascinated by the topic, then it’s a good overview of some of the more important voices about mycelia and mushrooms now and historically. Covers Wasson, Leary, psilocybin, Merlin Sheldrake’s just released Entangled Life, Paul Stamets, mycoremediation, Radical Mycology, Toby Kiers, and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World.

It’s estimated that there are a million and a half species of fungus, though nearly ninety per cent of them remain undocumented. Before any plants were taller than three feet, and before any animal with a backbone had made it out of the water, the earth was dotted with two-story-tall, silo-like fungi called prototaxites. […]

[T]hey are humble yet astonishingly versatile organisms, “eating rock, making soil, digesting pollutants, nourishing and killing plants, surviving in space, inducing visions, producing food, making medicines, manipulating animal behavior, and influencing the composition of the earth’s atmosphere.” […]

Each year, fungi produce more than fifty megatons of spores. Some mushrooms are capable of onetime exertions in which spores are catapulted through the air at speeds of fifty-five miles an hour.