Largest Organisms - Fungi


The largest living fungus may be a honey fungus of the species Armillaria ostoyae. A mushroom of this type in the Malheur National Forest in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, U.S. was found to be the largest fungal colony in the world, spanning 8.9 km² (2,200 acres) of area. This organism is estimated to be 2400 years old. The fungus was written about in the April 2003 issue of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research. While an accurate estimate has not been made, the total mass of the colony may be as much as 605 tons. If this colony is considered a single organism, then it is the largest known organism in the world by area, and rivals the aspen grove "Pando" as the known organism with the highest living biomass. It is not known, however, whether it is a single organism with all parts of the mycelium connected.

In Armillaria ostoyae each individual mushroom (the fruiting body, similar to a flower on a plant) has only a 5 cm (2 inch) stipe, and a pileus up to 12.5 cm (5 in) across. There are many other fungi which produce a larger individual size mushroom. The largest known fruiting body of a fungus is a specimen of Phellinus ellipsoideus (formerly Fomitiporia ellipsoidea) found on Hainan Island. The fruiting body weighs up to 500 kg (1100 lb).

Until F. ellipsoidea replaced it, the largest individual fruit body came from Rigidoporus ulmarius. R. ulmarius can grow up to 284 kg (630 lb), 1.66 m (5.4 ft) tall, 1.46 m (4.8 ft) across, and has a circumference of up to 4.9 m (16 ft).

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