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Fungi – Are All Fungi Microscopic?

penicillium image
Penicillin is made from the blue mold, Penicillium.

Fungi are fascinating organisms that play important roles in ecosystems. They can decompose organic matter, form symbiotic relationships with plants, and even produce antibiotics. Understanding the diversity and functions of fungi can lead to advancements in medicine, agriculture, and environmental conservation. Exploring the world of fungi can reveal a hidden world of interconnectedness and innovation.

Fungi Facts For Kids

  • Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants.
  • Yeast, used in baking, is a fungus.
  • Penicillin, an antibiotic, comes from a fungus.
  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi.
  • Fungi decompose organic matter.
  • Fungi can form symbiotic relationships with plants.
  • Some fungi are bioluminescent, glowing in the dark.
  • Truffles, a delicacy, are a type of fungus.
  • Fungi reproduce through spores.
  • Mold on food is a type of fungus.

How do fungi differ from plants?

mushroom image

Fungi were once considered plants. There are two key differences between fungi and plants: 1) fungi cells contain chitin instead of cellulose (plants), and 2) fungi do not produce their own food.

Fungi Characteristics

It is a eukaryotic organism.

As parasites, they eat their hosts’ decomposing matter for food.

Unlike plants, they lack chlorophyll.

Instead of pollen, fruit, or seeds, they reproduce through spores.

Usually, they are not motile, meaning they can’t move.

The role of fungi in the environment

Food

Fungi such as mushrooms and truffles are edible. Baking bread and fermenting beverages require yeast, a type of fungi.

Decomposition

Organic matter is decomposed by fungi. Carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen cycles depend on decomposition. As fungi break down organic matter, they release carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Medicine

Infections and diseases in humans can be treated with some fungi. They make penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics.

Types of Fungi

Fungi are often divided into four groups: molds, sac fungi, club fungi, and imperfect fungi. Here are some common fungi you see or use every day.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fungi that produce fruit. Mushrooms can be edible or poisonous, depending on their species. Forest mushrooms should never be eaten!

Mold

Hyphae are filaments that form molds. Cheese, bread, and old fruit are prone to mold growth. When hyphae grow upward and release mold spores, they sometimes appear furry.

Yeast

Yeasts are small round single-celled organisms. Yeasts are important in making bread rise.

A Few Interesting Fungi Facts

Mycologists are experts in fungal science.

Fungi are closer to animals than plants in taxonomy.

“Fungus” comes from Latin, meaning “mushroom”.

Over 1.5 million fungi species are believed to exist.

A mushroom’s upper part is the cap; beneath are the gills.

Trichoderma fungus helps create stone-washed jeans.

 

Mushroom Fungi Image - Science for Kids All About Fungi
All about Fungi: Not all fungi are microscopic. For example mushrooms are fungi.

Fungi feed on dead animals, bird droppings, manure, wallpaper paste, fruit or even living animals. They’ll eat almost anything that was once alive. Most fungi is helpful. They break down dead matter. Consider them the planet’s clean-up crew. Some fungi can cause problems when they destroy clothing, books or food, or when they cause disease. Molds and mildews hurt growing plants. Some fungal diseases, such as athlete’s foot, hurt humans.

Hyphae Illustration Image
Most fungi feed through microscopic threads called hyphae. These threads dig into a food source.

Fun Facts about Fungi for Kids

  • Many types of mushrooms grow wild. Some of these are edible, but some are very poisonous. The Destroying Angel mushroom is a white mushroom poisonous enough to kill you.
  • The yeast that makes bread rise is a kind of fungus.
  • Penicillin is made from the blue mold, Penicillium. Penicillin is an antibiotic that can cure ear infections and other illnesses.
  • Fungus is used to make cheese.
Penicillium Image
Penicillin is made from the blue mold, Penicillium.

Fungi Vocabulary

  1. Microscopic: unable to be seen without a microscope
  2. Digest: break down, convert to energy and nutrients
  3. Crew: group or team
  4. Yeast: a type of fungus
  5. Athlete’s foot: a fungal disease that causes itchiness and redness
Cheese Image
Fungus is used to make cheese.

Learn More All About Fungi

Athlete’s Foot Image
Athlete’s foot is a fungal disease that causes itchiness and redness

Understand more about fungus in this video:

A video explaining all about fungi.

Fungi Q&A

Question: How do fungi reproduce?

Answer: Most fungi reproduce through fruiting bodies that release spores. The spores are microscopic bodies that float through the air. When the spores land on food, they start to grow and eat the food.