Over a billion years ago, fungal mycelium climbed out of the water to become the first complex life on land. By feeding off of the minerals found in rocks, the mushrooms recycle them into what would eventually become soil. The minerals dispersed by the fungi into the soil allowed plant life to flourish, providing a habitat for later lifeforms. Animals like us divided from the fungal kingdom around 650 million years ago, meaning fungi are neither plants nor animals, but in fact, the ancestors of both. They are the largest and smallest living things, and the most common organism on earth. One of the oldest known lifeforms, Prototaxites, was a mushroom found all over the world, and stood over 24 feet tall. There are over 1.5 million species, with more being discovered constantly. Their role in our world is to consume and convert dying material into nutrients for their habitat. Without them, life would be suffocated just by the sheer amount of dead matter. They are the great recyclers, giving life to death by facilitating its metamorphosis.
A mycophile is a person captivated by the symbiotic world of fungi. Mushrooms enchanted me at a young age, influenced by my mom, who never failed to point out a cool shroom sprouting in her elaborate garden. My vocation as an artist has always been driven by a love of science and the natural world, and my goal is to create a bridge between these two passions. ‘The Shroomdex’ illustrates my research into the fascinating and complex science of fungi, and aims to make it approachable to the novice mycophile. It explores the different aspects of fungi and how massively they contribute to our world. Fungi are a vital element of the global ecosystem; understanding them allows us to better understand our environment and how it functions as a whole.