“Mushrooms inspire awe in those encountering them. They seem different. Neither plant-like nor animal-like, mushrooms have a texture, appearance and manner of growth all their own.
Mushrooms represent a small branch in the evolution of the fungal kingdom Eumycota and are commonly known as the ‘fleshy fungi.’"
Paul Stamets (The Mushroom Cultivator 1983)
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies we see growing from the ground up or growing from trees – they are the reproductive structures of fungi.
Fungi are the whole organism. Just like apples are the fruit of trees, mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi.
Mushrooms and fungi are often classified as plants or vegetables.
However, fungi are actually closer related to animals than to plants.
Aristotle’s ancient classification system dividing all life into plants or animals based on observed characteristics was expanded on by Carl Linnaeus, the founder of the current taxonomic naming system.
Then about a hundred years ago scientists started looking at mushrooms using microscopes. As microscopes improved, more and more taxonomic changes were made.
In 1959 the American ecologist Robert Whittaker recognized that fungi were distinct from both plants and animals, and today they are classified in their own kingdom.
Just like us, mushrooms take in oxygen and "exhale" carbon dioxide as a waste product.
Unlike plants, mushrooms do not engage in photosynthesis, but get their energy as other animals do, by taking organic molecules from their environment.
Fungi are chemoheterotrophs: It may surprise you to learn this, but you are actually a chemoheterotroph!
“Chemoheterotroph” is the term for an organism which derives its energy from chemicals, and needs to consume other organisms in order to live.