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The Elders: A Story of Mushroom and Man

Did you know a billion years ago we shared a common ancestor with fungi?  In the 580 million years that followed, mushrooms and man would split into two separate branches of the phylogenetic tree.  Mushrooms entering into a life of benevolent servitude and mankind into something resembling a drunken liquor cheeseburger party.

A Time Of Magic and Giants.

The early Silurian period was just dawning when the first of our mushroom elders, Tortotubus Protuberans,  made landfall.  Tortotubus, and it’s  knack for chemistry, would spend the next 20 million years terraforming earth’s rocky crust into something resembling… tinier rocky crust. Enzymatically digesting rock into fertile soil.

Prehistoric Prototaxites
Artist rendition of how Prehistoric Prototaxites might have looked.

Out of this new golden era of fungi arose the giant Prototaxities. Prototaxities grew near coastlines and rivers on the super continents of Gondwanan and Laurentia. Regions that would eventually become New York, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Scotland. Rising 24 feet into the air, these giant spires of life towered over primitive plants.  Then, just as they are now, mushrooms were among the largest terrestrial life forms on earth. Today you can visit the humongous fungus honey mushroom in Malheur National Forest. A single organism covering over 3.7 square miles.

Early on fungi formed a symbiosis with plants.  Attaching to the plant’s roots, fungi was much more efficient at processing nitrogen and other nutrients out of the soil.  A deal was struck, the mushy would feed the plant everything it needed and in return the plant would slide the mushy a little sugar. ‘Cause who doesn’t like a little sugar.

The fungi plant partnership allowed plants to grow larger root systems. Equipped with their fancy new roots and mushroom shoes, plants moved further and further away from the waters edge ultimately realizing their dream of total world domination.

The Mushroom Elders looked at what they had created and smiled.

Archaeopteris forests

At the end of the reign of the Prototaxities,  Archaeopteris – The First “True” Tree was emerging .  The era of the forest had begun. It was the first plant to produce an extensive root system which in turn had a significant impact on soil chemistry.  With trunks up to three feet wide, the trees grew perhaps 60 to 90 feet tall.

The eco systems Tortotubus Protuberans started we still walk amongst today.  All made possible by selfless gifts from our mushroom elders.

More about  Prototaxities:


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