Photo: Ken Ralph

Photo: Ken Ralph

What you see …

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Ken Ralph found this giant mushroom growing in his Fruitvale yard.

For perspective, he placed a hand-shovel, which measures 10.5-inches long, to highlight the size.

The role of mushrooms in nature:

Unlike plants, mushrooms cannot synthesize their own food from the sun’s energy.

They lack chlorophyll, which is the substance which permits plants to use sunlight to form sugars from the water and carbon dioxide in the air. Mushrooms therefore had to develop special methods of living: symbiosis, saprophytism and parasitism.

Most mushrooms growing on the forest floor are linked to trees by symbiosis. Called mycorrhiza, this link occurs between the root ends of a tree and the vegetative system of a mushroom.

Mycorrhiza benefits both organisms: there is an exchange of nutrients, one providing to other what it cannot synthesize or extract from the soil by itself. Mushroom essentially help the tree extract minerals and water from the soil; in exchange, the tree supplies the mushroom with sugar compounds.

Saprophytism is another key living method for mushrooms, especially for species which grow on lawns, on rotting wood or on excrement.

Here the mushroom’s role is one of decomposition. It feeds itself by digesting the organic matter and at the same time returns nutrients to the soil.

Lastly, some mushrooms are parasites. There are several kinds, ranging from species which attack healthy hosts like a tree, plant or insect, and lives on it without killing it. Another attacks only unhealthy hosts, thereby hastening their death. The parasitic species are generally microscopic mushrooms.

~ Sourced from Montréal Space for Life