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A fungus (plural: fungi or funguses) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from the other eukaryotic life kingdoms of plants and animals.

A characteristic that places fungi in a different kingdom from plants, bacteria, and some protists is chitin in their cell walls. Similar to animals, fungi are heterotrophs; they acquire their food by absorbing dissolved molecules, typically by secreting digestive enzymes into their environment. Fungi do not photosynthesise. Growth is their means of mobility, except for spores (a few of which are flagellated), which may travel through the air or water. Fungi are the principal decomposers in ecological systems. These and other differences place fungi in a single group of related organisms, named the Eumycota (true fungi or Eumycetes), which share a common ancestor (form a monophyletic group), an interpretation that is also strongly supported by molecular phylogenetics. This fungal group is distinct from the structurally similar myxomycetes (slime molds) and oomycetes (water molds). The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology (from the Greek μύκης mykes, mushroom). In the past, mycology was regarded as a branch of botany, although it is now known fungi are genetically more closely related to animals than to plants.

Selected article

Lactarius indigo gills
Lactarius indigo, commonly known as the indigo milk cap, the indigo Lactarius or the blue Lactarius, is a species of fungus in the Russulaceae family of mushrooms. A widely distributed species, it grows naturally in eastern North America, East Asia, and Central America. In Europe, it has so far only been found in southern France.[1] L. indigo grows on the ground in both deciduous and coniferous forests, where it forms mycorrhizal associations with a broad range of trees. The fruiting body color ranges from dark blue in fresh specimens to pale blue-gray in older ones. The milk, or latex, that oozes when the mushroom tissue is cut or broken—a feature common to all members of the Lactarius genus—is also indigo blue, but slowly turns green upon exposure to air. The cap is typically between 5 to 15 cm (2 to 6 in) broad, and the stem 2 to 8 cm (0.8 to 3.1 in) tall by 1 to 2.5 cm (0.4 to 1.0 in) thick. It is an edible mushroom, and is sold in rural markets in Mexico, Guatemala, and China.

Selected species

Inocybe cookei 20080913w.JPG
Inocybe cookei, commonly known as the straw fibrecap, is a species of mushroom in the Inocybaceae family. It was first described in 1892 by Giacomo Bresadola, and is named in honour of Mordecai Cubitt Cooke. The species can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. It produces small mushrooms of an ochre colour, with a prominent umbo, fibres on the cap and a distinctive bulb at the base of the stem. It grows from soil in mixed woodland, and is encountered in summer and autumn, though is not common. Ecologically, it feeds through use of ectomycorrhiza. Inocybe cookei has been described as both toxic and non-toxic, but either way, is not advised for consumption.

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Mycena leaiana var. australis.jpg
Credit: JJ Harrison
A clump of mature Mycena leaiana var. australis, a variety of Mycena leaiana.

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  1. ^ Bon, Marcel (1988). Pareys Buch der Pilze (in German). Hamburg, Berlin: Paul Parey. p. 80. ISBN 3-490-19818-2. 
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