Small is big

Published: Saturday 30 September 2000

The fungus Armillaria ostoyae , commonly called the honey mushroom, has grown so extensively in Malheur National Forest, usa , that it has become the largest living organism ever found. The fungal spore seems to have germinated approximately 2,400 years ago and now covers an area of 890 hectares and goes down 0.9 metres below the earth. According to a member of the research team, Greg Filip of Forest Science Department, Oregon State University, the fungus is one of the major pathogens that cause the death of conifers. The presence of the fungus was indicated when there was a big tree die-off due to root rot in the forest east of Prairie City, Oregon. Researcher Catherine Parks from Northwest Research Station identified the area showing dead trees from the air and took root samples from 112 trees. Using deoxyribonucleic acid ( dna ) tests, she found the fungus in 61 of them, showing that the fungus was growing all over the area.

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