Fungi are considered to be the oldest plants. They do not contain chlorophyll. Like other thallophytes, they do not contain roots, stems, flowers and leaves. These plants cannot manufacture their own food and so for food, they depend on decaying organic matter, plants and animals. Fungi are, therefore, called parasitic or saprophytic. Most fungi reproduce asexually, but a few species have a sexually reproductive stage which alternates with an asexual stage. Their cell wall is made up of cellulose of chitin. They produce enzymes to digest food. Some familiar fungi are: yeast, molds, mushrooms, mildews, rusts and smelts. Fungi can grow in al kind of climates and environments. Some fungi are also found in air and water. Sir P. A. Nichelly is considered to be the father of fungi way back in 1729. He had discovered the fungi.
Fungi can be useful or harmful to human beings and other organisms.
Some fungi, such as Agaricus, morchella, etc. are consumed as food by man. Certain molds, such as camembert and Roquefort are added to cheese to provide a flavor and to help ripen the cheese. Yeast is used to manufacture bread and alcohol. It is a good source of protein and vitamin B. some molds are used to produce antibiotics. The famous antibiotic penicillin was obtained from a mold in 1929. Fungi are also helpful in maintaining soil fertility.
Rust, smut, mold, etc. cause many dreadful diseases in crops. They also cause diseases in man and domestic animals. They spoil our food. Some species of fungi are poisonous and if they are consumed by man, they may prove fatal. Among these, the highly poisonous fungus is toad stool. From ergot fungus, a hallucinating drug L.S.D. is prepared. Ringworm and athlete’s foot are diseases caused by fungus. Many varieties of mushrooms are poisonous and can cause sickness or even death if eaten. Reference: Children’s Science Library by A.H.Hashmi.
Different species of fungi