Nature is constituted by the kingdom of plants and the kingdom of animals. Mushrooms cannot be classified in either of these categories since they do not photosynthesize and despite the fact they’re fed by other living organisms they grow on earth. Today fungi are classified as the second species in diversity after insects. They luck chlorophyll and have to live parasitically from other plants or animals or saprophytically from their relics or corpses.
Plants through their ability to photosynthesize are the ones who keep up and preserve life on the planet. Mushrooms on the other hand have the ability to decompose dead organic matter and together with their bacteria are important factors to the biological balance of nature. They play a very important role balancing the cycle of anthrax and inorganic salts since through their enzymes fungi decompose complicated organic combinations of dead animal and plant relics to simple elements. It is estimated that every autumn 2,000,000 leaves fall in every sq. Klm in a forest of deciduous trees. Fungi help in the elimination of these masses of leaves and the survival of the forests.
Fungi are divided into two big categories: micro fungi which are multitudinous and cannot be detected with naked eye and large species with varied forms and colours, also called mushrooms.
Despite their appearance and size they have some basic common characteristics:
a) they’re thallus plants
b) they luck chlorophyll
c) their thallus is composed by myceliums.
What we call a mushroom is the visible part of the organism, the seed body, which grows over the earth. There we find the body of the fungus called thallus or mycelium and is constituted by mycelial threads and can live for many years in comparison to the seed body which lives only for a few hours or days. Only wood like mushrooms can survive for some decades.
Mushrooms multiply through sporogenesis and are divided into two different categories: a)basidio – fungi whose basidiospores germinate on basidia and b)asco-fungi whose ascospores grow into two egg shaped or elongated asci. Both basidio-fungi and asco-fungi either inbreed or breed normally. Macro fungi however, usually inbreed.
Fungi can develop harmonious co-existent relations of mutual help (fungi root), live parasitically on alive or moribund trees and plants or be saprophytes feeding on dead organic matter which they decompose playing their own important role in the ecosystem.
They grow every spring and autumn in composted mould rich in organic matter (humus) on roots and tree trunks in forests and meadows. Some of them however grow all seasons in any habitat.
The Agiasos chestnut grove is such an important habitat where mushrooms grow in abundance because of humidity, temperature and rich humus.
Some of the wild mushrooms growing in the Chestnut grove are edible and of excellent quality. Some of them however are poisonous and deadly.
(Introduction to the leaflet on Mushrooms printed by the Environmental Training Center of the Municipality of Evergetoulas, Lesvos.)
Municipal Unit of Agiasos