Fungi facts

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Fungi facts

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Check out this fun-guy. Photo by Andrew Parkinson.

Working for a nature conservation charity has its perks, particularly the chance to learn about our natural environment from experts sitting just a few desks away. At lunchtime the other day,  I attended a Fungi Forum presented by Chris Knowles, a trainee ecologist with RSPB Scotland. Chris specialises in fungi and has written a number of blogs over the course of the summer and it’s always interesting to discover more about the world of fungi and the many interesting varieties found on our reserves.

What surprised me most is just how ubiquitous fungi are in our daily lives- yet we never lay eyes on the vast majority. Most fungi exist as hyphae (collectively mycelium) in the soil under our feet. The mushrooms, moulds and other visible forms are called 'fruit' and represent just a fraction of the fungi out there. Mycologists estimate there are around 1.5 million types of fungi on the planet but have only recorded about 100,000 so far...there's a long way to go!

They provide us with life-saving medicine (penicillin), a food source (mushrooms, yeast for bread, mould for blue cheese), and a much needed service, rotting away billions of tonnes of plant material. Of course, not all are so helpful (athlete’s foot springs to mind) but lots provide us with a useful service.

Chicken of the woods, one of the more conspicuous (and delicious) varieties of fungi. Photo by Niall Benvie.

Get to know  this unique kingdom by taking the fungi fact quiz below. Answers are presented at the bottom of the page. I’d love to know how you get on, leave a comment below or tell us on Twitter @RSPBScotland.

Fungi quiz:

  1. One of the largest organisms on the planet is a fungus. Can you name the variety and where it is found?
  2. Can you name the fastest organism on the planet?
  3. How many types of fungi are found in the UK? How many of these are mushrooms?
  4. A not so pleasant question - can you name the number of species of fungus found on the human heel?
  5. How do fungi communicate?
  6. How many spores does the giant puffball fungus carry?
  7. Guess the price of the most expensive truffle sold.
  8. With every breath, how many fungi spores do you inhale?

Fungi come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Crimson waxcap by David Osborn.


Answer key:

  1. It’s a Honey fungus found in Oregon, USA. It covers almost 2,384 acres and mycologists believe it is between 2,000 and 8,500 years old.
  2. The fastest organism on the planet is the hat thrower fungus (aka dung cannon). Near mid-day, when the sun is near its peak, the 2mm high fruit fires spores over 2 metres at a speed of 20,000Gs on the G-force scale.
  3. There are 12,000 known species of fungi in the UK and of these, 3,000 are mushrooms.
  4. 80! Don’t ask how many are found in toe-nail clippings.
  5. Fungi communicate by producing pheromones.
  6. A giant puffball fungus can carry over 7 trillion spores.
  7. The most expensive truffle every sold brought in £110,000 a kilo.
  8. With every breath we inhale thousands of fungi spores.


  • Happy to hear you enjoyed the blog. We will work on more fungi related blogs and keep you posted.

  • Really interesting. More blogs on fungi please!