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What are Macrofungi?

. . .You may be wondering.   It’s really just a fancy Latin term for “Big Fungi.”   What Macrofungi all have in common is that they form structures called fruiting bodies or sporocarps  –these sporocarps are  typically the above ground part of the mushroom that you see.

When you see  a sporocarp, this indicates that the macrofungus is in reproductive mode. When not in reproductive mode, these fungi consist of a nothing more than network of nearly invisible threads, called mycelia, which run through soil or decaying wood.  But, when environmental conditions are favorable for reproduction (for example, when temperatures are warm and there is lots of rain), these threads coalesce into the woody or fleshy sporocarp. These can take a wide variety of shapes, but somewhere on or in all sporocarps, tiny reproductive units called spores will be formed.  The spores of macrofungi  act like seeds in a plant — they are dispersed by the sporocarp, and if the spore lands on a suitable spot, it will produce mycelia, and eventually may form a new sporocarp.

Microfungi, by contrast, are mostly invisible for their whole lifetime, except when they produce millions of colorful spores.  You may have  seen  the black spores of bread mold  or the blue-green spores of Penicillium in your refrigerator, on occasion!

The most familiar group of macrofungi is the mushrooms.    In a typical mushroom, the spores are produced on the surfaces of the gills on the underside of the cap, as shown below.  The fungus shown here belongs to the genus Marasmiellus, and was collected in Belize. Read More…

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