by T.J. Klune
If you think fungi are just mushrooms and the black stuff that invades your bathroom or that Tupperware container in the back of your refrigerator, you couldn’t be more wrong.
This absorbing book has chapter after chapter of astonishing revelations about the mysterious mycelium world which science is only just beginning to explore. In describing the vital process by which various fungi turn fallen trees and leaf litter into rich soil, we learn how it creates a network in the forest environment which Sheldrake calls “the wood wide web”. Through the spiderweb spread of mycelium, trees and a wide variety of plants communicate chemically and exchange nutrients in a fascinating cooperative arrangement. He explains how bacteria in the soil make use of this arrangement to the mutual benefit of all.
Sheldrake also explores the medicinal uses of fungi, from folklore to modern antibiotics. Breakthroughs are being made in the area of psychopharmacology, taking the religious rituals of old cults praising the visions and ecstasy induced by mushrooms, and turning their psychoactive properties to treat mental illnesses and disorders.
Yeasts have been with us through the ages giving us bread and beer. New uses are being discovered that take the power of fungi to break down and consume, and putting them to work on pollutants and waste. There are even experiments being done to use mycelial fibers to make completely recyclable clothes and building materials.
The awe and wonder that Sheldrake feels towards the magic of mushrooms and their kin is infectious. The reader is swept up in the journey of discovery, and comes out the other end with a changed perspective on the world and the exciting possibilities of what fungi can do.