Monday, October 7, 2013

Fungi - Plant or Animal

Gem Studded fungi

Each spring many Fox Island Co. Park visitors appear, in the woods, to hunt for the elusive Morel, a member of the Ascomycetes Group of fungi.  At the end of each summer park visitors are treated to a display of fungi in many other forms, some edible, some not.  While traditionally fungi have been classified as plants, they did not contain chlorophyll necessary for the process of photosynthesis. Fungi are like plants in that they cannot move about but are similar to animals in their source of nutrition.  While green plants are "producers", fungi are "consumers" and get their nutrition from dead or living organisms.


Giant Puff Ball
 
 Fungi also do not have cellulose as the main component of their cell walls, as do plants, but a substance called "chitin" which is also the main component of insect exoskeletons.  Fungi cells also are not distinct individual units but rather incomplete or missing making the cytoplasm continuous throughout the organism.  In the forest fungi play a major role in the decomposition and recycling of plant material. 
 
Turkey Tail Fungi
Were it not for fungi the forest floor would be piled high with downed trees and leaves
 
Photos: Fox Island Co. Park, Upper/Lower Dune Trails
Allen County, Indiana