Experience earth at Kew Gardens
Earth is one of the four elements that has inspired the displays in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Look out for the giant fungi sculptures in the tropical undergrowth.
Earth provides a vital habitat for millions of organisms called fungi. We think of fungi as the mushrooms we can see growing above the ground, but the part you can see is only the fruiting body. The greater part of a fungus consists of a network of hyphae, tiny tube-like structures growing through wood and soil. In some forests, a single gram of soil may contain up to 2.5 km of fungal hyphae! Fungi are decomposers, recycling things like rotting wood to make soil rich and fertile.
Behind-the-scenes at Kew's Fungarium
All plants on Earth rely on fungi to live, and fungi out number plants six to one. The largest organism in the world is a fungus that is over 1,000 years old, covering hundreds of acres in a forest in Oregon USA!
This film goes behind-the-scenes of Kew's Fungarium, which holds around 1.25 million specimens making it the largest collection of dried fungi in the world.
This film will be showing in the film room of Kew's Princess of Wales Conservatory until 4 March.
See the sculptures
While researching the elements, sculptor Emma Garofalo met with Kew mycologists to explore the different fungi to be found in tropical environments, and to learn about where and how they grow.
Emma selected five fascinating fungi to inspire her sculptures:
- Earthstars (Geastrum) with fruit bodies that split open like flower petals, exposing the central dome (pictured)
- Stinkhorns (Phallus indusiatus) that have spores which ooze out of the top in a slime that smells of rotting meat
- Wood recyclers Camillea leprieurii, plantpot dapperling (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii) and Favolaschia
Fascinating world of fungi
Star fungi - Camillea lepreurii
Discover how the tubes of this fungi act like gun barrels, shooting tiny spores (the equivalent of seeds) out of the top to be dispersed in the air.
These tiny Camillea leprieurii fungi are no more than 3 cm tall and are dependent on rainforest trees for survival.
Like many fungi they are recyclers, converting dead plants into a reusable form. Minute Camillea colonies live inside trees, waiting to break down woody tissues after the trees die.
- Find out more about Camillea leprieurii
- Learn about Kew's work with fungi
- See more star plants and fungi in the exhibition