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Sunday, September 26, 2004

THE LARGEST MUSHROOM IN THE WORLD

Caught this on the news this morning. Armillaria ostoyae and its related species exist as huge, dispersed clones of a single organism that can spread out over 10 acres or more: a meta-organism consisting of genetic 'photocopies' of itself that form an enormous, interlocking latticework of self-cloned colonies which grow over thousands of years. In this bizarre mycological sub-universe that lurks 2-3 feet below the surface of your garden, concepts that we take for granted, such as Time and Indentity, are refuted on a regular basis. Monkey philosophers, go home!

Yeah, the Honey Mushroom redefines our definition of what constitutes an "organism"; it even makes us question the notion of a biophysical "self". It also reminded me I've got a degree in Microbiology.

We're hitting peak fungus season in the UK, even as we speak. Watch what happens to your lawns over the next few weeks. There's a subsurface sexual struggle going on; literally, a 'Turf War'. The toadstools you see are fungal fruiting-bodies: reproductive organs that swell and push their way upwards, penetrating the air with bulbous, baroque phalluses after a year of foreplay.