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1. the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi
2. the fungi of a particular region


The study of organisms classified under the kingdom Fungi. Common names for some of these organisms are mushrooms, boletes, bracket or shelf fungi, powdery mildew, bread molds, yeasts, puffballs, morels, stinkhorns, truffles, smuts, and rusts. Fungi are found in every ecological niche. Mycologists estimate that there are 1.5 million species of fungi, with only 70,000 species now described. Fungi typically have a filamentous-branched somatic structure surrounded by thick cell walls known as hyphae. The phyla considered to be true fungi are Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota. Other phyla that sometimes are included as true fungi are Myxomycota, Dictyosteliomycota, Acrasiomycota, and Plasmodiophoromycota. See Fungal biotechnology, Fungal ecology, Fungal genetics, Fungi, Medical mycology, Plant pathology



the science of fungi; a branch of botany. The principal concerns of mycology are the study of the morphology, taxonomy, biology, physiology, biochemistry, ecology, geography, and phylogeny of fungi, as well as of their role in nature and in the life of man. Mycology has applications in plant pathology (a considerable number of infectious plant diseases are caused by fungi), medicine and veterinary medicine (parasitic fungi are the causative agents of such human and animal diseases as dermatomycoses and mycotoxicoses), and industry (including the microbiological industry). Fungi yield antibiotics (penicillin, griseofulvin), citric acid, vitamins, and enzymes. Some fungi decompose wood and other valuable industrial raw materials and food products. A number of fungi are used as food (hymenomycetes and beer yeasts).

Information on fungi has been recorded since antiquity. In the fourth century B.C., Theophrastus described agarics, truffles, and morels. In the first century A.D., Pliny the Elder described the development of fungi (agarics) on tree trunks and stumps; it was he who made the first attempts to classify fungi. In 1578 the Dutch botanist K. Clusius published an atlas containing color representations of 221 species of fungi.

Three periods are usually differentiated in the development of mycology. The first period, which covers all work in mycology before the 19th century, included descriptions of various fungi and attempts to classify them. The best-known works of the period are the two-volume Survey of Fungi (1801) by the Dutch mycologist C. H. Persoon and The System of Fungi (1821–32), by the Swedish botanist E. Fries. In Russia the first studies in mycology were published in 1750 by S. P. Krasheninnikov. In 1836, N. A. Veinman described over 1,000 species of fungi, including more than 100 new species.

By the beginning of the second period, which lasted from the middle to the end of the 19th century, works appeared dealing not only with the taxonomy of fungi but also with their ontogeny and phylogeny. At this time attention was directed principally to characteristics of the developmental cycles of phytopathogenic fungi. This period was initiated by the research of the French brothers L. Tulasne and C. Tulasne and the German botanist H. A. De Bary. The Tulasnes discovered in powdery mildews, rust fungi, and smut fungi the phenomenon of pleomorphism—the development of various types of sporebearing by a single species of fungus, as a result of which such fungi were previously assigned to different species. De Bary worked out a method for the experimental study of parasitic fungi, and his pupil O. Brefeld devised a method of cultivating saprophytic fungi. In Russia the work of M. S. Voronin, primarily on parasitic fungi, was of particular significance in this period.

The third period, which began at the end of the 19th century, has been marked by developments in the study of the physiology and biochemistry of fungi. The German scientist G. Klebs’ research on the ontogeny of fungi was important. The cytological method was widely applied in mycology (the French scientist P. Dangeard, the German P. Claussen, the Soviet L. I. Kursanov). In Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, the problems raised by Voronin were studied further by the mycologist and plant pathologist A. A. lachevskii, whose works played an important role in the development of mycology and plant pathology in the USSR. V. G. Transhe’ proposed a method for studying the phenomenon of alternate hosts in rust fungi; his method is now used throughout the world. N. A. Naumov published the results of his research and a number of manuals on mycology and plant pathology. A. S. Bondartsev conducted mycological and phytopathological research in various regions of the USSR and in 1912 published the manual Fungal Diseases of Cultivated Plants and Methods of Controlling Them (Field-Garden-Orchard), which was reprinted in 1927 and 1931. Kursanov worked primarily on problems of the morphology and cytology of fungi (primarily rust fungi) and the interrelation-ships between parasitic fungi and their plant hosts.

In the second quarter of the 20th century, V. F. Kuprevich’s studies on parasitic fungi and the physiology of the diseased plant, as well as on the taxonomy of rust fungi, were of great significance. N. V. Lobanov and E. N. Mishustin devoted special attention to the role of mycotrophy in afforestation; they also studied the geography and ecology of microscopic soil fungi in various zones of the USSR. The works of N. M. Pidoplichko and V. I. Bilai were devoted to the study of fungal infections and intoxications of humans and domestic animals, especially stachybotriotoxicosis of horses and cattle. The role of fungi in the biological decomposition of plant remains was studied by V. Ia. Chastukhin.

Intensive research in mycology is being conducted in a number of countries because of the ever-increasing importance of fungi, including actinomycetes, as producers of antibiotics and other biologically active substances; as causative agents of plant, animal, and human diseases; and as producers of mycorrhiza. In the USSR research is being carried out in Leningrad (V. L. Komarov Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Leningrad State University, the Scientific Research Institute for Plant Protection), in Moscow (Moscow State University, Central Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Laboratory of Forestry of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR), in the Far East (Far East Scientific Center of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR), in the Ukrainian SSR (Institute of Botany and Institute of Microbiology of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR), and in other Soviet republics.

In the USSR articles on mycology are published in the journals Mikologiia i fitopatologiia (since 1967) and Novosti sistematiki nizshikh rastenii (since 1964). Foreign journals dealing with the subject include Mycologia (New York, since 1909), Ceskd Mykologie (Prague, since 1947), and Review of Applied Mycology (since 1922; renamed Review of Plant Pathology, 1970).


Iachevskii, A. A. Osnovy mikologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933.
Kursanov, L. I. Mikologiia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1940.
Komarnitskii, N. A. “Ocherk istorii izucheniia nizshikh rastenii v Rossii i SSSR.” Uchenye zapiski MGU, 1948, issue 129.
Naumov, N. A. “O nekotorykh aktual’nykh voprosakh mikologii.” In Problemy botaniki, issue 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Bondartsev, A. S. Trutovye griby Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR i Kavkaza. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Kuprevich, V. F., and V. G. Transhel’. Rzhavchinnye griby. Issue 1: Sem. Melampsorovye. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957. (Flora sporovykh rastenii SSSR. Vol. 4: Griby 1.)
Nikolaeva, T. L. Ezhovikovye griby. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961. (Flora sporovykh rastenii SSSR. Vol. 6: Griby 2.)
Ul’ianishchev, V. I. Mikoflora Azerbaidzhana, vols. 1–4. Baku, 1952–67.
Flora sporovykh rastenii Kazakhstana, vols. 1–8. Alma-Ata, 1956–73. Gäumann, E. Die Pilze. Basel, 1949.
A. Pilat. NaSe houby, vols. 1–2. Prague, 1952–59.
Alexopoulos, C. I. Einfuhrung in die Mykologie, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1966.
Kreisel, H. Grundziige eines naturlichen Systems der Pilze. Jena, 1969.



The branch of botany that deals with the study of fungi.
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