|1. Mushrooms are fungi. Fungi are as uniquely different from plants as plants are from animals.|
2. Fungi recycle plants after they die and transform them into rich soil. If not for mushrooms and fungi, the Earth would be buried in several feet of debris and life on the planet would soon disappear.
3. There were no fossils of fungi dating back more than 10,000 years until a scientist recently found a mushroom encased in tree resin (sap) that is many millions of years old! This mushroom was placed into a new genus, the genus Coprinites.
4. Some of the oldest living mushroom colonies are fairy rings growing around the famous Stonehenge ruins in England. The rings are so large that they can best be seen from airplanes or satellites.
5. Some mushrooms produce compounds that fight cancer! This was discovered when scientists in Japan found that a community had unusually low cancer rates. The scientists discovered that the members of the community grew and ate many Enokitake mushrooms!
6. You can make beautiful colors by boiling wild mushrooms and dipping cloth in the resulting broth. The books Mushrooms For Color and The Rainbow Beneath My Feet tell you how to make dyes with mushrooms (get your parents to help you).
7. Many mushrooms grow towards light, following the sun just like plant. Unlike plants, scientists do not yet know how mushrooms use sunlight; only that they do.
8. The spores of mushrooms are made of chitin, the hardest naturally-made substance on Earth. Some scientists suspect that mushroom spores are capable of space travel; a few even believe that some fungi found on Earth originally came from outer space! (Others believe that people who think this must be from outer space themselves.)
9. Under the right conditions, some mushrooms’ spores can sit dormant for decades or even a century, and still grow!
10. Mushrooms are useful not only as food and medicine; some are also being used in bioremediation, to absorb and digest dangerous substances like oil, pesticides and industrial waste, in places where they threaten the environment.
The world of fungi holds many secrets yet to be discovered. Perhaps you will help to unveil the many mysteries of mushrooms!