Mushrooms: Web

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Mention the word fungi and people might think of the umbrella shaped mushrooms found in forests. But it turns out that there are many other kinds of fungi. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Rytas Vilgalys is a Professor of Biology at Duke University.

“A fungus is a group of organisms that get their nutrition by breaking down molecules outside the cell, which is different than animals that take food into the cell or plants which make their own food. So most people who are interested in fungi, see them as mushrooms and those are just fruiting bodies, analogous to fruit on a tree, but the major part of the fungus itself is either diffused within the soil that they’re growing on.”

In New York’s Central Park, Dr. Vilgalys searched through mats of fallen leaves, or leaf litter, to demonstrate his point.

“As I rake away the leaf litter, especially in a mature forest, a lot of times the leaves themselves on the forest floor are all knitted together by these fungal threads. You’ll see strands of fungal mycelium that hold together the litter in places where there’s a steep slope along a river or something. The fungi are literally holding the litter in place, so they’re preventing erosion.”

Mycelium are strands of fungus which are silk-like in appearance but are very strong.

“In some places in the tropics the fungi can literally hang from branches and literally just suspend the litter in air.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

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Mushrooms: Web

Fungi come in some surprising shapes and sizes.
Air Date:10/01/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience

Mention the word fungi and people might think of the umbrella shaped mushrooms found in forests. But it turns out that there are many other kinds of fungi. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Rytas Vilgalys is a Professor of Biology at Duke University.

"A fungus is a group of organisms that get their nutrition by breaking down molecules outside the cell, which is different than animals that take food into the cell or plants which make their own food. So most people who are interested in fungi, see them as mushrooms and those are just fruiting bodies, analogous to fruit on a tree, but the major part of the fungus itself is either diffused within the soil that they're growing on."

In New York's Central Park, Dr. Vilgalys searched through mats of fallen leaves, or leaf litter, to demonstrate his point.

"As I rake away the leaf litter, especially in a mature forest, a lot of times the leaves themselves on the forest floor are all knitted together by these fungal threads. You'll see strands of fungal mycelium that hold together the litter in places where there's a steep slope along a river or something. The fungi are literally holding the litter in place, so they're preventing erosion."

Mycelium are strands of fungus which are silk-like in appearance but are very strong.

"In some places in the tropics the fungi can literally hang from branches and literally just suspend the litter in air."

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music