, , , , , , , ,

Michigan’s Humongous Fungus

It’s probably fitting that we close out Garden Month with the largest lifeform in Michigan: The Humongous Fungus. According to the Crystal Falls, Michigan web site (which also provided the photo):

Crystal Falls is “Home of the Humungous Fungus”, perhaps the world’s largest and oldest living organism. It covers 38 acres beneath an Iron County forest near the Wisconsin border. It is believed to be 1,500 to 10,000 years old and weigh about 100 tons – about the same as an adult blue whale. It is the species called Armillaria Bulbosa and the mushrooms it produces are commonly called “honey mushroom.” The mushroom is the only edible part of the fungus. Armillaria bulbosa is very common, occurring in hardwood forests in North America, Europe and Japan.

The fungus was discovered by Myron L. Smith and James B. Anderson, both of the university of Toronto. They came across the fungus while doing research for the U.S. Navy in 1988. When Johann N. Bruhn, a research scientist with Michigan Technological University in Houghton, wrote an article on it in the Journal of Nature in April of 1992, scientists were deluged with inquiries from the United States, Canada, and Britain.

The fungus even made an appearance in a Letterman Top 10 where it was revealed that Elvis once had staff try to bulldoze it onto a 40-acre pizza and that it’s nicknamed “Debbie.” The Humungous Fungus Fest is held in August every year (Aug 8-10, 2008) and you can learn a ton more about Armillaria gallica, the humongous fungus from Tom Volk (includes the New York Times article and pictures of “Debbie”).