Mushrooms in the News

The search for a cleaner way to clean takes researchers to the world of rot
(Jan. 6, 2018)

pictureMushrooms are capable of synthesizing an amazing arsenal of chemical compounds. Among these are enzymes that a Danish company adapts for use in detergent. The enzymes break down dirt using less water and function at lower temperatures, so washing requires less energy. The enzymes are increasingly incorporated into common brands, replacing some of the otherwise petroleum-based detergents.


Will Snakes Disappear From Earth? Lethal Fungal Disease Spreading Fast, Hits Europe
(Dec. 22, 2017)

pictureWhat would the world look like without snakes? More rats for one thing. Although many find them distasteful, snakes play important roles in many ecosystems, and concern for their welfare is growing. Snake populations worldwide are threatened by a fungal disease that attacks their skin. The infection causes severe itching, skin lesions, and behavior changes that leave them vulnerable to predation. Many species of snakes in the US have already experienced a sharp decline in numbers. Now, the disease has been found in Europe, and it could become a global epidemic.


Studies reveal which gene mutations allow stem rust fungus to infect wheat crops
(Dec. 21, 2017)

pictureWheat stem rust is a fungal disease that can decimate entire fields, spread rapidly, and easily outfox attempts at control. The latest concerns surround the strain labeled Ug99, which is marching across Africa and the Middle East, and which can infect wheat varieties that were previously considered resistant. Scientists are focusing on what makes this fungus so adaptable. They have discovered two fungal genes which trigger the plants’ immune response. When these genes are modified, as they are in the Ugg99 strain, the plant does not recognize them and is susceptible to infection. Breeders hope that they can deploy this knowledge to create resistant wheat strains that stay one step ahead of the rust and prevent a global crash of the wheat supply.


Researchers propose new term for the role of microbiota in neurodegeneration
(Dec. 21, 2017)

pictureThere is an intimate connection between the microbes in our gut and many aspects of our health. Much of the current research is focused on how these bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes support or destroy the health of our brains. Scientists have now coined a new term for the interactions between microbial proteins and our own which can lead to crippling diseases.


Bugs may be causing a common crop mold to produce a deadly toxin
(Dec. 19, 2017)

pictureA grayish-green powdery rot, transforms the tips of corn ears into withered skeletons. More than an unpleasant image, Aspergillus flavus can also be dangerous. Some strains of this fungus produce aflatoxin, a poison that causes both serious illnesses and economic losses. Now, scientists at Cornell University are unraveling the interactions between these toxic fungi, and the insects that live nearby. In the presence of fruit flies, toxic strains grew more vigorously and produced more toxins, suggesting that the insects either help the fungus, or spur it to protect itself. These relationships are complex, but understanding them gives farmers precise and powerful tools for managing their fields and protecting the public.


Why Mushrooms May Be the Best Food to Help Fight Aging
(Nov. 9, 2017)

pictureFree radicals, which are produced when we metabolize our food, are thought to contribute to age-related diseases such as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The damage from free radicals can be minimized by eating foods with plenty of antioxidants. Lucky for mushroom lovers, mushrooms, especially wild varieties, contain impressively high levels of these anti-aging compounds.


What a 'trip': Will California soon consider legalizing 'shrooms’?
(Aug. 28, 2017)

pictureThe controversial debate over legalizing hallucinogenic drugs has spread to mushrooms. A proposed bill has been filed in California and if approved, voters in that state could vote next year on whether or not to legalize magic mushrooms.


Magic mushroom chemical may be a hallucinogenic insect repellent
(Aug. 24, 2 017)

picturePsilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms, is attracting increased interest and acceptance these days. However many scientific questions remain. These include: “why does this compound appear across such distantly related species?” and “what purpose does it serve for the fungus?” Some scientists are examining the possibility that psilocybin acts on insects in a similar way to humans, thereby discouraging them from eating the mushrooms.


'Death cap' wild mushrooms poison 14 in California
(June 4, 2017)

pictureThese mushrooms look innocent enough, which is why proper identification is so important. Amanita phalloides, or Death Cap, is responsible for 90% of mushroom poisoning deaths. Most recently it has made 14 people in California seriously ill. Poisonings like these serve as harsh reminders for all mushroom hunters, whether amateur or professional, to remain contentious and cautious in their harvesting activities.


Mushrooms Could Provide a Record of Grassland History
(April 11, 2017)

pictureMany scientists are scrambling to understand the effects that our industrial society has on the environment. This can be especially difficult in ecosystems such as grasslands that leave little record of their growth from year to year. However, one group of scientists is trying to use mushrooms to indirectly measure these changes.


Mushroom Sustainability Study
(March 16, 2017)

pictureThere are a multitude of reasons to cultivate mushrooms, from their thriving niche in the marketplace to their ability to grow in less-than-ideal spaces. Now, helping the planet can be added to the list. A two year study has concluded that mushrooms use considerably less resources than many other crops. The study also provides a sustainability benchmark for future mushroom growers to meet and surpass.


Did Neanderthals eat mushrooms?
(March 16, 2017)

picture An analysis of the plaque on several specimens of Neanderthal teeth has revealed the presence of DNA from two fungal species. Some believe these are pathogens that the Neanderthals acquired involuntarily, but others believe this is evidence that human ancestors have been dining on mushrooms for the past 100,000 years.

picture

99-million-year-old mushrooms found perfectly preserved in Burmese amber
(March 16, 2017)

PictureRemarkably well-preserved specimens indicate that the physical structures of fungi, as well as those of the beetles that feed on them, have not changed dramatically in the past 99,000,000 years. read more...

Sequencing Poisonous Mushrooms to Potentially Create Medicine
(Jan. 24, 2017)

pictureMushrooms in the genus Amanita are well known to foragers as deadly dangers, but hidden inside their genetics, scientists at Michigan State University are hoping to find cures for many lethal diseases. The unique way in which these mushrooms synthesize their toxins is sparking ideas for the creation of new pharmaceuticals. Soon, these much maligned mushrooms may be on their way to saving more lives than they have taken.  read more...

Gov. Snyder Vetoes Bill to End Morel Mushroom Training, Cites Poisonings
(Jan. 9, 2017)

pictureMorel hunters must still be licensed in order to sell their finds. Governor Snyder vetoed a bill that would have exempted those who sell morels from the mandatory training and certification process. Proponents of the bill say that morels are comparatively easy to recognize and provide an additional source of income for many amateurs. However, the numerous incidents in which people have been poisoned by eating mushrooms that they believed to be morels prevented the Governor from signing the bill. (Visit our “workshops” tab for more information on how to become a certified mushroom identification expert)  read more...

Magic Mushroom Drug Psilocybin Helps Cancer Patients Chill Out
(Dec. 1, 2016)

pictureDoctors are getting better and better at treating physical illnesses, and now a mushroom may help us treat the accompanying disorders that we can’t see. Psilocybin, the mind-altering drug contained in so called “magic mushrooms,” has been shown in several studies to reduce depression and anxiety in patients suffering from terminal cancer. Participants in one study received a single dose of psilocybin and reported significant increases in wellbeing which lasted long after the drug left their systems. This is promising news since depression and anxiety disorders affect nearly half of all cancer patients. Studies like this one provide hope that we will soon be able to treat not only the cancer itself, but the psychological wounds it leaves behind.


Faux Leather Made From Reishi Mushrooms
(Nov. 16, 2016)

PicturepictureThe uses for fungi are ever expanding. One company has devised a technique to turn mycelium into a convincing substitute for leather. MycoWorks manipulates the growth patterns of Reishi mushrooms, causing them to form large, flexible sheets that are remarkably similar to real leather. The material is durable, eco-friendly and an appealing alternative for those who are concerned about animal welfare. Perhaps in a few years we will be growing our bags and briefcases rather than sewing them.


Surprising New Uses for Mushrooms, From Houses to Packaging
(July 13, 2016)

PictureTeams at Clemson University have several fascinating projects in the works. One uses fungi to form building and packing material. So far these materials have proved to be strong, lightweight, sustainable and flame-retardant. Another project intends to combat superbugs by taking advantage of fungi’s impressive ability to synthesize chemicals and antibodies.


Gene-edited CRISPR mushroom escapes US regulation
(April 18, 2016)

PictureOwing to new forms of gene-editing technology, a variety of genetically modified white button mushrooms are free to be sold without first navigating government regulations. The mushrooms are more resistant to browning than their un-modified counterparts, potentially decreasing food waste. However, this decision is likely to augment the controversy surrounding the safety and public opinion of GMOs.


Raindrops Keep Falling On Their Heads (Thanks To Mushroom Spores, That Is)
(Jan. 10, 2016)

pictureIt’s common knowledge that rain encourages mushroom fruiting, but research now suggests that things may also work the other way around! Through their impressive dispersal mechanisms, mushrooms release millions of tons of spores into the atmosphere each year. These spores collect moisture from the air and may initiate the formation of clouds and raindrops.


Mushroom used in Chinese medicine 'slows weight gain'
(June 24, 2015)

pictureReishi mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve health; now this practice may be getting some scientific backup. Studies suggest that eating Ganoderma lucidum, or Reishi mushrooms changes the bacterial makeup of our intestines and encourages bacteria that promote weight loss.


Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungus
(Nov. 11, 2014)

pictureAlthough we bask in the speed and sophistication of our modern internet, we have just begun to study a far older communication network that exists in our forests. Vast underground networks of mycelium link individual plants together and allow them to interact. Some plants use the “wood wide web” to exchange nutrients or send messages, while others use it to steal precious resources or disperse toxins.