We live in one of the most fungally rich regions in the United States. Oregon has the largest single living organism on Earth in the Malheur National forest. It’s a fungus known by several names: Armillaria, scientifically; Honey Mushroom commonly; or, locally, as the Humongous Fungus. By 2015 it was three square miles large and a few thousand years old. It lives in the soil and spreads its filaments outward so that it grows one to three feet each year. It’s also killing the forest.
Or is it simply performing its natural function of recycling the trees back into the soil, but on a longer time scale than most humans are capable of understanding? Questions like these underpin the field of Mycology, the branch of biology that studies fungi, one of the least understood branches of life on Earth. Several recent books delve into this field from both the highly specialized scientific perspective as well as that of radical DIYers. Entangled Life, by Merlin Sheldrake, is a highly readable account of the author’s love for mushrooms and fungi as well as a tour through current trends in mycology to examine just how little we understand about these organisms. Similarly, Doug Bierend’s In Search of Mycotopia shows us the possibilities of fungal and microbial life. Both authors are trained experts and believe that understanding the fungus among us can radically alter how we experience our own lives as well as the world around us. Continue reading “Radical Mycology!”