It’s a mushroom.
And it’s not even a particularly rare one. You’ve probably got the honey fungus ( Armillaria
ostoyae) in your garden, growing on a dead tree-stump.
For your sake, let’s hope it doesn’t reach the size of the largest recorded specimen, in Malheur
National Forest in Oregon. It covers 890 hectares (2,200 acres) and is between 2,000 and 8,000
years old. Most of it is underground in the form of a massive mat of tentacle-like white mycelia (the
mushroom’s equivalent of roots). These spread along tree roots, killing the trees and peeping up
through the soil occasionally as innocent-looking clumps of honey mushrooms.
The giant honey fungus of Oregon was initially thought to grow in separate clusters throughout the
forest, but researchers have now confirmed it is the world’s single biggest organism, connected under the soil.
STEPHEN What, or which, is the largest living thing on earth?