12 September 2018

11 fun-gi facts

Fungi are frankly fantastic. From your daily bread to saving lives, they play a pivotal role in the world. Here are a few surprising facts you didn't know about our fungal friends.

By Meryl Westlake


All life on earth is tied to our fungal friends. 

Mycologists at Kew have released the first ever State of the World’s Fungi report highlighting the importance, uses and threats to the diversity and abundance of key species.   

Here are some little-known facts that prove how vital fungi really are. 

  • There may be as many as 3.8 million fungal species, but science has only named 144,000 of them 
  • The Aspergillus tubingensis fungus can break down some plastics in weeks rather years, making it potentially very useful in the fight against waste   
  • Baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) was one of the first types of fungus to be used by humans around 5,000 years ago. 
  • Life-saving medicines from fungi include penicillin (fights infections), cyclosporine (enables organ transplants) and lovastatin (lowers cholesterol) 
  • The world’s edible mushroom market is thought to be worth a whopping $42 billion! 
  • In washing powder, there’s an enzyme derived from fungi that help break down stains and bring dull clothes back to life. 
  • Fungi is over your plate, as a key ingredient in foodie favourites like marmite, Quorn and cheese. 
  • ALL Orchids are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi to germinate and survive. 
  • We tested a back of dried porcini mushrooms bought from a supermarket. DNA analysis revealed that there were three different species in the pack, each new to science! 
  • 90% of living plant species depend on fungi to access nutrients through their roots 
  • Kew is home to the world’s largest fungarium, with around 1.25 million specimens 
  • Explore the pioneering State of the World’s fungi report to see the science behind the figures.

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