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January 2nd, 2013 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Armillaria fhtagn!

Is Oregon really home to home to the world’s largest mushroom?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

Someone recently told me Oregon was home to the world’s largest mushroom. Is it as big as a whale? And where is it, so I can avoid it? It sounds creepy.

—Another Liberal Arts Major

Puny human! The Old Gods sneer at your pathetic, ant-minded attempts to comprehend the mighty fungus, Armillaria solidipes, that lurks deep within Eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. For behold, chump: This entity is not merely the world’s largest mushroom—it is the world’s largest living organism of any kind.

How big are we talking about? No one knows (which is scary in itself), but estimates range as high as 35,000 tons. 

“But how can this be?” you ask, in your tiny, gerbil-like voice. “Surely such a huge mushroom would be visible from miles away, like an enormous Smurf mansion.” But once again your simian intellect, so admirably evolved for throwing feces at your companions, fails utterly to apprehend your master’s majesty.

First of all, the reason no one is quite sure how much the mighty Armillaria actually weighs is because the vast majority of it is underground. We know how much land area it covers—2,400 acres, if you’re counting. But it’s tough to tell how deep the seething mass of mycelial fibers that comprise the fungus’s main body might go. (Though “all the way to hell” sounds like a good bet.)

We tend to assume that each individual mushroom is its own organism. That, of course, is exactly what they want us to think, but the truth in this case is that these are merely the fruiting bodies of a single, vast being. Poking their heads through the forest floor like the billion thrusting penises of Cthulhu, they watch the waking world, biding their time until the Old Ones rise again. Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath!


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