Did you know that the largest organism known on Earth is a mushroom?
While the whale is the largest living mammal (the largest on record was a scant 110 feet long and weighed an anorexic 200 tons), there’s a mushroom so large it could choke the biggest whale in the ocean. Heck, it’s so huge it could probably choke a whole pod of whales with enough left over to obstruct the breathing passages of a few herds of elephants and gag several gaggles of geese. Scientists who have studied this massive fungal organism estimate that its body can extend for many miles. One befuddled botanist has even suggested that we may never know for sure how enormous these fungi can become because the one all those eggheads are currently researching may still be growing. Thus far, that big bad boy I’m talking about, which resides in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, is estimated to occupy over 2,384 acres.
Can you imagine that? A mighty mushroom that measures nearly four square miles is more than a mite mind-boggling. Look at it this way, my friend: that’s the size of more than 1,665 football fields.
Are you getting the picture now?
Mushrooms like this Armillaria ostoyae I’ve been describing achieve their monumental mass mainly due to their inherently parasitic nature. They’ve killed forests of conifer trees by digesting their roots. You read right—they eat trees. As they do, they extend flat, shoestring-like structures called rhizomorphs. The rhizomorphs are utilized to bridge the gaps between the A. ostoyae’s food sources, creating a network called the mycelium. Guess that helps explain how that bugger got so big. I used to have a picture of it on my cell phone, but I was kind of drunk one night and accidentally left that phone in the backseat of a Yellow Cab. I tried calling the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission customer service line a few times, but I never retrieved the phone and haven’t gotten around to getting a new one yet. When I finally do, I think I’ll spring for one of those smartphones for stupid people.
When this monstrosity of a mushroom was initially discovered, some experts theorized it was actually many mushrooms growing side by side. Nope—wrong! So, they called some major microbiologist to tell him he just had to see it. He says, “I’ll be there,” and the next thing you know, he’s on a plane—on his way to take a peek at that daunting denizen from the kingdom of fungi. When he arrives, one of the other squints lays a multiple-mushroom theory on him. The newly arrived microbiologist goes silent for a New York minute and then exclaims, “Whoa…I know a way we can test that theory.” Of course, he suggested using a battery of molecular genetic techniques, which we laymen crudely call DNA testing, to determine if the ginormous tree gobbler was one individual or many individuals masquerading as one—more than likely just to punk some scientists. Have you guessed what they found? Instead of heterozygous strips of DNA, they discovered only homozygous ones. Now, that’s another mystery of the universe solved. One could even say this was one small step for man and one giant step for mycology.
While what I’ve just related may be enough to blow any methodological mind, what I’m about to tell you will leave you in a shocking state of wow and awe. Human families are a lot like a fungus, at least in my humble opinion. Whether related by biology or by choice, those unseen rhizomorphic-like threads that tie individuals together are what make a family. In some cases, it becomes necessary to conduct DNA tests to see who’s biologically related to whom. For better or for worse, the inherent symbiotic and parasitic nature of the family structure has the potential to nurture or destroy an individual. Tracing the roots of any family tree far enough back will unearth dirt about the heroes and the heels that we love and hate and with whom we are related in some freaky form or fashion. When all is completely said and done, it is what it is until it just ain’t anymore. An old saying proclaims that you can choose your friends but can’t choose your family. It’s been my empirical experience that even when we can choose whom to relate to, we many times fare no better in the end.
And so, it goes on our planet. Is there life out there on other planets? While no one knows for sure, mathematicians hypothesize that given the number of planets in the universe, it is reasonable to speculate that some could sustain life. Now, if places other than Earth can support life, then there’s a fair chance that we are not alone. Moreover, if there is other life out there, one could logically surmise that it may be more intellectually advanced than we are. If technologically ahead of us, such life forms may have surpassed our ability to travel through space. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to think that one day, they may pay us a visit.
Well, I, for one, believe that they’re already here. They traveled here from beyond the farthest stars many millennia ago and made a home on our planet. Why did they come here? Well, your guess is as good as mine, so have at it. Was it for world domination? I doubt it because as far as I can tell, no one really seems to stay in charge for very long here. Could it just be that this world is better than the one they left behind? Maybe I could believe that if I didn’t believe our world has been going—and continues to go—to hell in a handbasket. Did they just want to say, “We’re here!”? After all, we all have to be somewhere, right?
Admittedly, while I don’t know exactly why they’ve come, I do know that they’re here. That’s right, extraterrestrial aliens are here with us, sharing our small, sad, terrestrial plane of existence. You may ask who and where they are. And that would be an excellent question, so I’m glad you asked. They’re the fungi—and they’re everywhere! I’d even venture to say that they’re the “mushroom in the room” of which we dare not speak. The fungus among us.
Now you may say, “Wait a minute. I eat those dumb mushrooms all the time, so they can’t be more intellectually advanced than I am.” I would then respond with “Oh, no?” and ask you what could be cleverer than a life form that tricks another into ingesting it, so that the ingested life form can slowly and covertly take control of its ingester. Then I’d tell you that’s pretty clever if you ask me. Another excellent question for you to ask is how I know this. My reply: It came to me as a vision one time when I was tripping my balls off on a butt load of mushrooms. Many folks who have ingested shrooms will say they were truly altered after doing so.
Psilocybe cubeniss (magic mushroom) use has been documented as long as 9,000 years ago. Art found in the Sahara region depicts these fungi in great detail. It is known that many years before the arrival of European explorers to Central America, the natives there used them in their religious ceremonies. I don’t mean to be rude, but if you don’t believe those historical hard facts, then f*** you and f*** the spirit animal you rode into town on. Can I get an “amen” here?
Talk about an advanced life form. The mushroom doesn’t even have to get a room to get it on or hook up. They make more mushrooms by producing spores, which are then borne by the wind to new places to grow. Sometimes, however, they grow in areas where seldom a breeze blows, so they must make their own wind. This has been scientifically documented. They create their own wind by increasing the rate at which water evaporates from their surface. The cooler air resulting from the evaporation lifts and moves those spores. And move they do. They’re everywhere! Why do you think that after ingestion, the ingester experiences nausea and vomiting? Well, to make more room for the ingested life form to take over, of course.
The magic mushroom is not the only fungi species. So far, mycologists have definitively identified around 75,000 different variations and estimate that as many as a million remain unidentified. From the beginning of humankind, there have been only fifteen variations of the human species duly documented by scientists. Think about that for a second. We may not be outmanned, but we’re unquestionably outnumbered. And just how many of those extinct Homo-whatevers (those whatevers being Homo guatengensis, Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Homo rudolfensis, Homo antecessor, Homo cepranensis, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodensiensis, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens idaltu, Homo floresiensis, Homo denisova and Red Deer Cave people) perished from eating toxic mushrooms until only we Homo sapiens were left? These shrooms from space, I tell you, they’re here and out to get what remains of us. Oh, the humanity!
Ironically enough, since the 1940s, we’ve all been worried the world will end in a mushroom cloud. It may very well, but perhaps not the kind of mushroom cloud we thought. So, shall we steadfastly stand our ground and fight the good fight against these insidious space invaders? Should we admit defeat and do what those fungal foreigners did, leaving our native soil to seek a new home in another galaxy far, far away? Or, are there other options to consider?
One of our elected leaders has suggested we could build a wall to keep them out and have Mexico pay for it. Frankly, I don’t believe that would work. Another idea for saving ourselves is to communicate with this enemy that threatens our planet, our safety, our freedoms, our very way of life. We could endeavor to negotiate a peace accord between our and the mushrooms’ leaders.
Yes, that just might serve as the sole salvation of our kind. Now, let’s send out word to those billions of fungi that we’re ready to commit to sitting at the negotiating table. Let’s agree to hold a peace summit in that tiny, frequently forgotten African country called Amnesia—the country whose flag proudly proclaims, “We have no history—who’d remember it, anyway?” I’m sure you know the one I mean.
Send out the message loud and clear: Ground control to Major Mushroom, ground control to Major Mushroom. Can you hear me, Major Mushroom? And if that doesn’t work, then while we’re all still at that table together and before they know what’s happening, we’ll just eat them as fast as we can, saying, “F*** you mushrooms, and f*** the f***ing spacecraft you f***ing rode to our planet.
Ground control to Major Mushroom, ground control to Major Mushroom, can you hear me Major Mushroom? Oh, sweet Jesus in heaven, how I do love to eat those shrooms! Now, can I get me another “amen” here?
Why? Because I said so!