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What are fungi?

Fly agaric Fly agaric Mushrooms, toadstools, yeasts, moulds and mildews are not plants, but types of fungus. Fungi (plural of fungus) cannot make their own food, so they feed on dead or dying animals and plants. Fungi reproduce by releasing spores into the air. Mushrooms and toadstools have caps raised up from the ground on stalks. The spores fall from beneath the cap and are carried away on a breeze.

Fruiting body and hyphae (threads)Fruiting body and hyphae (threads)


Fungi grow thin, pale threads, called hyphae, into the bodies of dead plants and animals, or into animal waste. The threads rot these down into nutrients. The fungi then take in the nutrients.

Like bacteria and earthworms, fungi are nature’s recyclers. They return the nutrients from animal and plant matter back into the soil. Plants then take in the nutrients through their roots.

Blue cheeses such as Stilton or Roquefort are made by injecting fungus into milk curds.

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