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type of basidium fungus characterized by spore-bearing gills on the underside of the umbrella- or cone-shaped cap. The name toadstool is popularly reserved for inedible or poisonous mushrooms, but this classification has no scientific basis. The only safe way of distinguishing between the edible and the poisonous species is to learn to identify them. Some poisonous mushrooms are of the genus Amanita. The genus includes the fly agaric, Amanita muscaria, and the death angel or destroying angel, A. virosa.

The use of edible mushrooms for food dates back at least to early Roman times. Originally a delicacy for the elite, mushrooms are now extensively grown on a commercial scale, especially the cultivated mushroom or champignon, Agaricus bisporus, and the shiitake mushroom, Lentinus edodes. Their culture requires careful control of temperature and humidity. The bulk of the crop in the United States is grown near Philadelphia. In Europe more than 50 species of mushrooms are marketed. Although mushrooms contain some protein and minerals, they are largely composed of water and hence are of limited nutritive value.

The truffletruffle
[Fr.], subterranean edible fungus that forms a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with the roots of certain trees and plants. The part of the fungus used as food is the ascoma, the fruiting body of the fungus.
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, puffballpuffball
or smokeball,
fungus in which the aboveground portion is typically a stemless brownish sac with an opening at the top through which issues the dustlike mass of ripe spores. The common puffball is Lycoperdon gemmatum. The giant puffball (L.
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, and other edible fungi are sometimes also called mushrooms. In all cases the term mushroom is properly restricted to the above-ground portion, which is the reproductive organ. Mushrooms are classified in the kingdom FungiFungi
, kingdom of heterotrophic single-celled, multinucleated, or multicellular organisms, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. The organisms live as parasites, symbionts, or saprobes (see saprophyte).
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, phylum (division) Basidiomycota.


See A. H. Smith and N. A. Weber, The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide (rev. ed. 1980); O. K. Miller, Jr., Mushrooms of North America (rev. ed. 1979); G. H. Lincoff, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (1981).

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A macroscopic fungus with a fruiting body (also known as a sporocarp). Approximately 14% (10,000) described species of fungi are considered mushrooms. Mushrooms grow aboveground or underground. They have a fleshy or nonfleshy texture. Many are edible, and only a small percentage are poisonous.

Mushrooms reproduce via microscopic spheres (spores) that are roughly comparable to the seeds of higher plants. Spores are produced in large numbers on specialized structures in or on the fruiting body. Spores that land on a suitable medium absorb moisture, germinate, and produce hyphae that grow and absorb nutrients from the substratum. If suitable mating types are present and the mycelium (the threadlike filaments or hyphae that become interwoven) develops sufficiently to allow fruiting, the life cycle will continue. In nature, completion of the life cycle is dependent on many factors, including temperature, moisture and nutritional status of the substratum, and gas exchange capacity of the medium.

Fewer than 20 species of edible mushrooms are cultivated commercially. The most common cultivated mushroom is Agaricus bisporus, followed by the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus spp.). China is the leading mushroom-producing country; Japan leads the world in number of edible species cultivated commercially.

Mushrooms may be cultivated on a wide variety of substrates. They are grown from mycelium propagated on a base of steam-sterilized cereal grain. This grain and mycelium mixture is called spawn, which is used to seed mushroom substrata.

Mushrooms contain digestible crude protein, all essential amino acids, vitamins (especially provitamin D-2), and minerals; they are high in potassium and low in sodium, saturated fats, and calories. Although they cannot totally replace meat and other high-protein food in the diet, they can be considered an important dietary supplement and a health food.

Fungi have been used for their medicinal properties for over 2000 years. Although there remains an element of folklore in the use of mushrooms in health and medicine, several important drugs have been isolated from mushroom fruiting bodies and mycelium. The best-known drugs obtained are lentinan from L. edodes, grifolin from Grifola frondosa, and krestin from Coriolus versicolor. These compounds are protein-bound polysaccharides or long chains of glucose, found in the cell walls, and function as antitumor immunomodulatory drugs. See Fungi, Medical mycology

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A fungus belonging to the basidiomycetous order Agaricales.
The fruiting body (basidiocarp) of such a fungus.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


symbol of suspicion. [Plant Symbolism: Flower Symbolica, 310]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the fleshy spore-producing body of any of various basidiomycetous fungi, typically consisting of a cap (see pileus) at the end of a stem arising from an underground mycelium. Some species, such as the field mushroom, are edible
2. the fungus producing any of these structures
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The taxa included within this checklist of macrofungi generally have fruiting bodies that reach well over a centimeter in height or diameter (though see the discussion below).
Diets prepared with macrofungi also proved to be able to exert a dampening effect upon the addition of exogenous cholesterol, contributing significantly to the maintenance of acceptable levels of metabolic risk parameters analyzed and reinforcing the need for intake of dietary fiber sources in the context of a mixed diet as an important protective factor against the development of chronic diseases (NCDs), such as dyslipidemias, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
ARNOLDS, E., 1981.--ecology and coenology of macrofungi in grasslands and moist heatlands in Drenthe, the Netherlands.
Overall, therefore, more research is required to overcome the challenges mentioned above before macrofungi can be fully accepted as one of the major biofactories for the production of anti-inflammatory medicine.
At each 10 m interval, a permanent center point for 2 m radius circle plot was established and all terrestrial macrofungi within the circle were recorded.
Mycorrhizal macrofungi diversity (Agaricomycetes) from Mediterranean Quercus forests; a compilation for the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).
Additional species were reported in general accounts of macrofungi by Guerrero and Homrich (1999), Sobestiansky (2005), Meijer (2006), Cortez et al.
"The macrofungi that pose the greatest risk to wood structures are Meruliporia incrassata (also called poria) and Serpula lacrimans (also called dry rot).
The purpose of this two-year investigation was to inventory species of macrofungi present within The West Woods Park (Geauga Co., OH) and to evaluate overall diversity among different taxonomic groups of fungi present.
This research project involved undergraduate, graduate students, volunteers, park interns and a multidisciplinary team of experts in the collection and identification of Myxomycetes, macrofungi, lichens, mosses, liverworts, ferns, tardigrades, and molluscs from the tree canopy.
Beneath his coat, projecting from his body as if from a dead log of wood, was a finely layered, opulently colored vest of the silky and almost translucent fruit-bodies, the beautiful white anastomosing sporophores, the blood-red fructifications, the edible glutinous cuticles, the greenish gills, the fine radial striations, hymenial surfaces and thin-walled hyphae of macrofungi, of mushrooms."(131-32)