Mushrooms, the umbrella-shaped fungi that mysteriously appear in meadows and woodlands as summer draws to a close, have fascinated humans for millennia.
The seasonal emergence of these fungal forms is only part of a life cycle that, for most of the time, is hidden out of sight.
Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. Along with the other fungi, they occupy a kingdom all of their own. Mushroom-producing fungi perform a vitally important role in their ecosystems, decomposing organic material so that life can begin anew.
On this page, we take a closer look at mushrooms, finding out what they are, how they reproduce, and why they are important in our lives and in ecosystems around the world…