Fungi and the Wood Wide Web

When I read Hope in the Dark1, there was this curious fact that stuck with me.

After a rain mushrooms appear on the surface of the earth as if from nowhere. Many come from a sometimes vast underground fungus that remains invisible and largely unknown. What we call mushrooms, mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus. Uprisings and revolutions are often considered to be spontaneous, but it is the less visible long-term organising and groundwork – or underground work – that often laid the foundation. Changes in ideas and values also result from work done by writers, scholars, public intellectuals, social activists and participants in social media.

I thought the comparison was beautiful, but more than that I was amazed at this idea of mushrooms being just the visible tip of a much larger hidden organism underground.

Fast forward a year, and I just read The Hidden Life of Trees, which explains how trees stay connected to each other through a fungi network that interconnects their roots to exchange information and goods:

Over centuries, a single fungus can cover many square miles and network an entire forest. The fungal connections transmit signals from one tree to the next, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers. Science has adopted a term first coined by the journal Nature for Dr. Simard’s discovery of the “wood wide web” pervading our forests

I thought the Wood Wide Web was interesting (and funny), but also there it was: the giant fungi again. And apparently, the largest known organism is a fungus “that occupies some 2,384 acres (965 hectares) of soil in Oregon’s Blue Mountains (…) and is estimated to be 2,400 years old but could be as ancient as 8,650 years, which would earn it a place among the oldest living organisms as well.”

It’s been a fascinating read, full of surprising facts about trees, and I definitely recommend reading it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Featured image by Aaron Escobar

  1. If you can, buy directly from Haymarket. The paperback includes a eBook copy for free and their eBooks have no DRM. Just like it should be. 

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