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A fungus is a parasite that lives on dead tissue. Some fungi
are mold, mildew, rust, dry rot, and mushrooms. They grow
suddenly, especially after warm spring and autumn rains, or
if water gets in places that are not supposed to get wet.
They are delicate and fragile, which means they are not very
Mushrooms are the best known fungi; they can be found in
woods, fields, and orchards. An adult mushroom has a stem,
called a "stalk", and a lid, called a "cap," which looks like
an umbrella. The cap opens after the mushroom grows through
the soil or the decaying log where you find it.
Some mushrooms are good to eat, but other mushrooms are very
dangerous, and if you eat the wrong kind, you can get very
sick. NEVER eat mushrooms that you find. Take them to your
parents or your teacher, and ask if they can tell if they are
all right to eat.
Look closely at a mushroom. Underneath the cap there are
lines going from the stalk to the edge of the cap. These
lines are called "gills," and they are very thin, like
On the outside of each gill are hundreds of cases (like
sacks) which hold their seeds, which are called "spores".
You can only see the spores if you have a microscope. We
don't know for sure, but one mushroom may be able to make as
many as ten million spores. Some mushrooms burst when their
spore sacs are ripe, and a puff of air carries them away.
Some of the spores will land in a good place to grow, and
they will grow into more mushrooms.
Try to find some samples of other kinds of fungi, like mold,
mildew, or rust.
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