Beyond Fumeshrooms

On our way home from the cemetery, we found these white creatures happily popped out and sparsely distributed on the vast plain.

They demanded to be noticed.

I run into one. Curious, I removed it from the ground.

It was so cute I wanted to pinch it.

On a quest to find out about mushrooms, I thought I’d bypass the fact that they’re fungi and that they have a cap, a gill and a stalk.

Magic it was, I learned about magic mushrooms. They are also called psychedelic mushroom. You’re right, they have hallucinogenic compounds – psilocybin, for instance – which can potentially treat depression. Psilocybin structurally resembles serotonin, our mood and consciousness mediator. In one study, it was found to act faster than conventional antidepressants.

There’s also a mushroom that moves on, a species from the genus Amanita. That is, it shifted from degrading cellulose to forming symbiotic relations with trees and their roots. Understandably so, it would not want to destroy and eat its symbiont. Mushrooms can move on, commit to other things, and do what they do best.

You screen the grocery aisle and it’s always there – button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Although thought to be ordinary since they’re the first to be commercially cultivated, research suggests they are packed with as much antioxidants, if not more, as the expensive ones. Its anti-radical strength is concentrated on its body. Cheap way to be healthy!

Here’s the culinary Japanese star, the shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes). They don’t only taste good, they also boost immunity. Four-ounce serving of shiitake for four weeks and the participants hit two birds with one mushroom: enhanced functioning of immune system and reduction in inflammation proteins.

If there’s something that compliments magic, it’s a big mushroom that glows. Bioluminescence in fungi is rare and least understood. Scientists, though, are beginning to unravel the mystery. Mushrooms such as Neonothopanus gardneri produce a bright green light at night to attract insects and help them disperse their spores. Clever, right? This seemed to be metabolically expensive. However, researchers found it to be an adaptive function – the action is embedded in their circadian clock, turning on this feature only at a certain time, thus saving energy.

For sure there are more mushrooms out there: death cap mushrooms, Mario’s mushroom, mushrooms that cats love, among others.

Diversity fascinates.









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