Who would have thought the world’s largest organism that ever lived on Earth is still living and it is so enormous that it spans an incredible 90 acres, weights as much as three Blue Whales and it is already 2,500 years old? I, for one, certainly never imagine that. This elusive Earth’s resident is in fact a fungus called Armillaria gallica. So, yeah, it is a mushroom and it is still striving right under our feet as we speak. First discovered in the late 80s, this fungus of gargantuan proportion is found in Crystal Creek, Michigan by a team of researchers who proclaimed it as the largest single organism in the world. Back then it was thought that it weighs about 110 tons and was 1,500-year-old.
Fast forward to today, the same team revisited the same fungus, taking some 245 samples from an area covering 90 acres and determined that the samples are from the same organism and thus concluding that this ‘mushroom’ is way larger than what they had estimated previously. The new study also revealed that this living fungus actually weighs four times more, at an astonishing 440 tons, and it is not 1,500-year-young as previously estimated. Instead, it is roughly 2,500-year-old at this point. You must be wondering, is there really a giant mushroom holed up in the Earth like this:
Well, the answer is not quite. Though it is fungus, it does not necessary look like a mushroom with stem and all. That is probably something you will see in cartoons. In actual fact, this super mushroom dwells beneath the earth with only evidence of its existence above ground as clumps of honey mushrooms like the one pictured below. What we see appears to be spatial appearance of these mushrooms, but in reality, these spatial mushrooms are part of the 440-ton behemoth living in the soil in the form of rhizomorphs. Rhizomorphs are basically long, black tendrils that are more root-like than anything else. So, no, it is not the mushroom you may have imagined it to be.
Anywho, this rhizomorphs can span for miles beneath our feet, feeding on diet consists mainly of wood. Now, that is bad news of whatever that grows above, namely the trees. This fungus is considered to be parasitic because, it will invade the trees by going under the tree barks, consuming the wood, and eventually killing the trees. Armillaria gallica is force to be reckon with as attest by the damage it has caused to the forest. Ahhhh, that, folks, is the wonder of nature.
Featured image by Dan Molter (shroomydan) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. You can contact this user here. – This image is Image Number 26659 at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link.
Source: All That Is Interesting.