The Fungi Kingdom
Every living things belongs to one of five kingdoms; the Monera Kingdom, the Protists Kingdom, the Plant kingdom, the Animal kingdom and the Fungi Kingdom. Fungi used to be considered plants but now are seen as their own kingdom. Fungi can be found anywhere, even the Arctic Circle. Over 100,000 different fungal species are known, and its estimated that there are over a million yet to be discovered. The scientists who study fungi are called Mycologists.
A fungus cannot produce its own food, and relies on other living things for nutrition. Since fungus is lacking chlorophyll they are unable to get their nutrients from photosynthesis, they must consume their nutrients in another manner. There are three ways fungi can consume nutrients, they can be saprotrophs, parasites, or mycorrhizal.
Fungi grow from microscopic filaments called hyphae that extend and branch to form a cast network or mycelium. Mycelium is the body of the mushroom, which is the fruit body of fungus. Mushrooms contain spores, which is how the fungi reproduce. Fungi play a vital role in recycling and decomposing organic matter. With out this action, all the nutrients locked in plants would remain there, nutrient cycles would stop and plants would not have enough raw materials to survive.
We've found a couple of things on campus over the years that we initially thought were fungi, but turned out to be very different. One organism we found that we beleived was a fungs turned out to be a slime mold. The other wasn't even a living organism, but rather a form of ice called Hair Ice or Hair Frost.