A fungus (plural: fungi) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and moulds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from the other eukaryotic life kingdoms of plants and animals.
Abundant worldwide, most fungi are inconspicuous because of the small size of their structures, and their cryptic lifestyles in soil or on dead matter. Fungi include symbionts of plants, animals, or other fungi and also parasites. They may become noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or as moulds. Fungi perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange in the environment.
They have long been used as a direct source of human food, in the form of mushrooms and truffles; as a leavening agent for bread; and in the fermentation of various food products, such as wine, beer, and soy sauce. Since the 1940s, fungi have been used for the production of antibiotics, and, more recently, various enzymes produced by fungi are used industrially and in detergents.
Fungi can break down manufactured materials and buildings, and become significant pathogens of humans and other animals. Losses of crops due to fungal diseases (e.g., rice blast disease) or food spoilage can have a large impact on human food supplies and local economies.
This post is part of the Mosaic Monday meme,
and also part of the Monday Mellow Yellows meme,
and also part of the Macro Monday meme,
and also part of the Through my Lens meme,
and also part of the Seasons meme.